Stable isotope probing - linking microbial identity to function

Nat Rev Microbiol. 2005 Jun;3(6):499-504. doi: 10.1038/nrmicro1162.


Stable isotope probing (SIP) is a technique that is used to identify the microorganisms in environmental samples that use a particular growth substrate. The method relies on the incorporation of a substrate that is highly enriched in a stable isotope, such as (13)C, and the identification of active microorganisms by the selective recovery and analysis of isotope-enriched cellular components. DNA and rRNA are the most informative taxonomic biomarkers and (13)C-labelled molecules can be purified from unlabelled nucleic acid by density-gradient centrifugation. The future holds great promise for SIP, particularly when combined with other emerging technologies such as microarrays and metagenomics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / classification
  • Bacteria / genetics*
  • Carbon Isotopes
  • DNA, Bacterial / genetics*
  • Isotope Labeling / methods
  • Phylogeny
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / genetics


  • Carbon Isotopes
  • DNA, Bacterial
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S