Use of the 16S--23S ribosomal genes spacer region in studies of prokaryotic diversity

J Microbiol Methods. 1999 May;36(1-2):55-64. doi: 10.1016/s0167-7012(99)00011-1.


The description of microbial diversity by molecular culture-independent techniques most often involves the amplification of the 16S rRNA by PCR gene and either analysis of the diversity of amplified molecules (community fingerprinting) that allows the simultaneous study of many samples or the cloning and sequencing of a significant amount of amplification products. The fact that between the 16S and the 23S genes in the ribosomal operon there is a spacer extremely variable in both sequence and length provides an excellent tool to simplify both approaches. The spacer can be amplified almost as easily as the 16S rDNA taking advantage of conserved nucleotide stretches at the 5' end of the 23S gene and the amplicon can contain different amounts of the 16S rDNA choosing primers at the different conserved areas within this gene. Identified by the acronym RISA (rDNA internal spacer analysis), the spacer addition provides a marker of highly variable size allowing standard separation of the amplification products and the sequence of this hypervariable region is useful in the fine discrimination of operational taxonomic units.

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / genetics*
  • Base Sequence
  • DNA, Bacterial / genetics
  • DNA, Ribosomal / analysis
  • DNA, Ribosomal / genetics
  • Enterobacteriaceae / genetics
  • Genes, Bacterial
  • Genes, rRNA*
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Prokaryotic Cells
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / genetics*
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 23S / genetics*


  • DNA, Bacterial
  • DNA, Ribosomal
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 23S