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Determination Of Phospholipid- And Lipopolysaccharide-derived Fatty Acids As An Estimate Of Microbial Biomass And Community Structures In Soils

L. Zelles, Q. Y. Bai, R. Rackwitz, D. Chadwick, F. Beese
Published 2004 · Biology

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Several soils subject to different cultivation and management practices were examined by analysis of fatty acid profiles derived from phospholipids and lipopolysaccharides, using an improved sequential method which is capable of measuring ester-linked and non-ester-linked phospholipid fatty acids (EL-PLFA, NEL-PLFA, respectively) and the hydroxy fatty acids in lipopolysaccharides. A good correlation was obtained (r>0.90) between the soil biomass and total EL-PLFA in the soils investigated, which ranged from forest soils to a variety of agricultural soils. Elucidation of the composition of the community structure was an additional task. Eukaryotes can be differentiated from bacteria by the presence of polyunsaturated and ω-hydroxy fatty acids, both of which were much more abundant in the OF layer of the forest soil than in the remaining samples. A relatively low proportion of monomethyl branched-chain saturated fatty acids was obtained in the forest OF horizon, these being indicators for Gram-positive bacteria and actinomycetes. Various subclasses of proteobacteria produce β and mid-chain hydroxy fatty acids, which occur primarily in agricultural soils. The ratios between monounsaturated fatty acids and saturated fatty acids seem to be very useful parameters of soil environmental conditions. In addition, on the basis of the differences in composition of the NEL-PLFA and hydroxy fatty acids of lipopolysaccharides, clear indications for the community structure of various soils were obtained. In the forest soils much more abundant anaerobic micro-organisms and relatively less abundant proteobacteria were present than in the other soils. In the cultivated soils, however, the proportion of Gram-negative bacteria was considerably higher. Furthermore, eukaryotes appeared to be pre-dominant in the soils once used for a manure deposit site.
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