High abundance of Crenarchaeota in a temperate acidic forest soil


  • Editor: Jim Prosser

Correspondence: Steffen Kolb, Department of Ecological Microbiology, University of Bayreuth, Dr-Hans-Frisch-Strasse 1-3, D-95440 Bayreuth, Germany. Tel.: +49 921 555 620; fax: +49 921 555 799; e-mail: steffen.kolb@uni-bayreuth.de


The objective of the study was to elucidate the depth distribution and community composition of Archaea in a temperate acidic forest soil. Numbers of Archaea and Bacteria were measured in the upper 18 cm of the soil, and soil cores were sampled on two separate occasions using quantitative PCR targeting 16S rRNA genes. Maximum numbers of Archaea were 0.6–3.8 × 108 16S rRNA genes per gram of dry soil. Numbers of Bacteria were generally higher, but Archaea always accounted for a high percentage of the total gene numbers (12–38%). The archaeal community structure was analysed by the construction of clone libraries and by terminal restriction length polymorphism (T-RFLP) using the same Archaea-specific primers. With the reverse primer labelled, T-RFLP analysis led to the detection of four T-RFs. Three had lengths of 83, 185 and 218 bp and corresponded to uncultured Crenarchaeota. One (447 bp) was assigned to Thermoplasmales. Labelling of the forward primer allowed further separation of the T-RF into Crenarchaeota Group I.1c and Group I.1b, and indicated that Crenarchaeota of the Group I.1c were the predominant 16S rRNA genotype (≤85%) in the soil. The abundance of Archaea and concentration of ammonia and nitrate decreased with soil depth. Hence it is unclear if the detected Crenarchaeota Group I.1c participated in ammonia oxidation or had another phenotype.