Validating a method for detecting genes involved in soil phosphorus cycling

August 11, 2018

Soil and plant

Phosphorus is an essential nutrient for plants to survive however, most of the phosphorus in soils (up to 65%) is in an organic form which plants are not able to assimilate. A group of enzymes termed non-specific acid phosphatases (NSAPs) can convert organic phosphorus to an inorganic form such as phosphate, a process called mineralization. There are different types of these phosphatases that are present in, and on the surface of, microorganisms, plant roots, and other soil organisms. To date, there have been few studies on the structure of microbial communities and their relative contributions to phosphorus mineralization thru the production and activation of NSAP enzymes. These types of studies are in the area of molecular biology, a field of biology that looks at the structure and function of macromolecules that are essential to life, such as proteins and DNA.

Gaiero et al. (2018) sought to build on the molecular tools available to researchers that would help clarify the role of NSAP-producing microbe communities in soils and other environments. The researchers obtained soil samples from grasslands in New Zealand and used a quantitative polymerase chain reaction (q-PCR) test, a common molecular technique also called real-time polymerase chain reaction test (RT-PCR), to investigate the expression of genes involved in NSAP production. They found that the genes being expressed were associated with approximately 20 different families of soil bacteria. Furthermore, their molecular approach was successful in targeting genes specific to NSAPs and pointed to potential differences in the amount by which the genes expressed the different types of NSAPs. The authors suggested that this methodology could help increase the resolution of genetic material detected in environmental samples and would be useful in biogeochemical and ecological research studies on phosphorus cycling.

Read the article here (journal subscription required):

Gaiero JR, Bent E, Fraser TD, Condron LM, Dunfield KE (2018) Validating novel oligonucleotide primers targeting three classes of bacterial non-specific acid phosphatase genes in grassland soils. Plant Soil, 427:39-51.