Hierarchical detection of diverse Clade II (atypical) nosZ genes using new primer sets for classical- and multiplex PCR array applications

Joanne C. Chee-Sanford, Lynn Connor, Alexander Krichels, Wendy H. Yang, Robert A. Sanford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The reduction of nitrous oxide (N2O) to N2 represents the key terminal step in canonical denitrification. Nitrous oxide reductase (NosZ), the enzyme associated with this biological step, however, is not always affiliated with denitrifying microorganisms. Such organisms were shown recently to possess a Clade II (atypical) nosZ gene, in contrast to Clade I (typical) nosZ harbored in more commonly studied denitrifiers. Subsequent phylogenetic analyses have shown that Clade II NosZ are affiliated with a much broader diversity of microorganisms than those with Clade I NosZ, the former including both non-denitrifiers and denitrifiers. Most studies attempting to characterize the nosZ gene diversity using DNA-based PCR approaches have only focused on Clade I nosZ, despite recent metagenomic sequencing studies that have demonstrated the dominance of Clade II nosZ genes in many ecosystems, particularly soil. As a result, these studies have greatly underestimated the genetic potential for N2O reduction present in ecosystems. Because the high diversity of Clade II NosZ makes it impossible to design a universal primer set that would effectively amplify all nosZ genes in this clade, we developed a suite of primer sets to specifically target seven of ten designated subclades of Clade II nosZ genes. The new primer sets yield suitable product sizes for paired end amplicon sequencing and qPCR, demonstrated here in their use for both conventional single-reaction and multiplex array platforms. In addition, we show the utility of these primers for detecting nosZ gene transcripts from mRNA extracted from soil.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number105908
JournalJournal of Microbiological Methods
StatePublished - May 2020


  • Atypical nosZ
  • Clade I NosZ
  • Clade II NosZ
  • Nitrous oxide reduction
  • PCR primers
  • Typical nosZ

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Molecular Biology
  • Microbiology


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