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13C-Labelling of lipids to investigate microbial communities in the environment

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)72 - 82
Number of pages11
JournalCurrent Opinion Biotechnol
Volume17 (1)
DatePublished - Feb 2006


The introduction of 13C-labelled substrates to soils, sediments or cultures followed by 13C analysis of phospholipid fatty acids (PLFAs) provides quantitative and chemotaxonomic information for the groups of microorganisms utilizing a given substrate. Gas chromatography-combustion-isotope ratio mass spectrometry has provided the high precision necessary to measure small isotopic changes (differences in the relative abundances of 13C to 12C expressed as [delta]13C values) for nanogram amounts of individual compounds, such as microbial PLFAs. This methodology constitutes a powerful new culture-independent method for investigating microbial communities in the environment. The information obtained is highly complementary to that obtained from gene-probe-based methods, and considerable possibilities exist to extend this methodology to include other biochemical components of microorganisms.

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Publisher: Elsevier

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