- I. Introduction 720
- II. General methodology 721
- III. Methodological considerations 722
- IV. Application of microarrays in the soil environment 726
- V. Conclusions 731
Soil microbial communities are responsible for important physiological and metabolic processes. In the last decade soil microorganisms have been frequently analysed by cultivation-independent techniques because only a minority of the natural microbial communities are accessible by cultivation. Cultivation-independent community analyses have revolutionized our understanding of soil microbial diversity and population dynamics. Nevertheless, many methods are still laborious and time-consuming, and high-throughput methods have to be applied in order to understand population shifts at a finer level and to be better able to link microbial diversity with ecosystems functioning. Microbial diagnostic microarrays (MDMs) represent a powerful tool for the parallel, high-throughput identification of many microorganisms. Three categories of MDMs have been defined based on the nature of the probe and target molecules used: phylogenetic oligonucleotide microarrays with short oligonucleotides against a phylogenetic marker gene; functional gene arrays containing probes targeting genes encoding specific functions; and community genome arrays employing whole genomes as probes. In this review, important methodological developments relevant to the application of the different types of diagnostic microarrays in soil ecology will be addressed and new approaches, needs and future directions will be identified, which might lead to a better insight into the functional activities of soil microbial communities.