Analysis of BIOLOG GN substrate utilization patterns by microbial communities

Kornelia Smalla, Ute Wachtendorf, Holger Heuer, Wen Tso Liu, Larry Forney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BIOLOG GN plates are increasingly used to characterize microbial communities by determining the ability of the communities to oxidize various carbon sources. Studies were done to determine whether the BIOLOG GN plate assay accurately reflects the catabolic potential of the inoculum used. To gain insight into which populations of microbial communities contribute to the BIOLOG patterns, denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis and temperature gradient gel electrophoresis (TGGE) were used to assess the diversity of ribotypes in the inocula and individual wells of BIOLOG plates following incubation. These studies were done with microbial communities from the rhizosphere of potatoes and an activated sludge reactor fed with glucose and peptone. TGGE analyses of BIOLOG wells inoculated with cell suspensions from the potato rhizosphere revealed that, compared with the inoculum, there was a decrease in the number of 16S rRNA gene fragments obtained from various wells, as well as a concomitant loss of populations that had been numerically dominant in the inoculum. The dominant fragments in TGGE gels could be assigned to the γ subclass of the class Proteobacteria, suggesting that fast-growing bacteria adapted to high substrate concentrations were numerically dominant in the wells and may have been primarily responsible for the patterns of substrate use that were observed. Similarly, the community structure changed in wells inoculated with cells from activated sludge; one or more populations were enriched, but all dominant populations of the inoculum could be detected in at least one well. This study showed that carbon source utilization profiles obtained with BIOLOG GN plates do not necessarily reflect the functional potential of the numerically dominant members of the microbial community used as the inoculum.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1220-1225
Number of pages6
JournalApplied and environmental microbiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1998
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Food Science
  • Biotechnology
  • Ecology


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