In the light of the poor culturability of Acidobacteria and Verrucomicrobia species, group-specific real-time (qPCR) systems were developed based on the 16S rRNA gene sequences from culturable representatives of both groups. The number of DNA targets from three different groups, i.e. Holophagae (Acidobacteria group 8) and Luteolibacter/Prosthecobacter and unclassified Verrucomicrobiaceae subdivision 1, was determined in DNA extracts from different leek (Allium porrum) rhizosphere soil compartments and from bulk soil with the aim to determine the distribution of the three bacterial groups in the plant-soil ecosystem. The specificity of the designed primers was evaluated in three steps. First, in silico tests were performed which demonstrated that all designed primers 100% matched with database sequences of their respective groups, whereas lower matches with other non-target bacterial groups were found. Second, PCR amplification with the different primer sets was performed on genomic DNA extracts from target and from non-target bacteria. This test demonstrated specificity of the designed primers for the target groups, as single amplicons of expected sizes were found only for the target bacteria. Third, the qPCR systems were tested for specific amplifications from soil DNA extracts and 48 amplicons from each primer system were sequenced. All sequences were >97% similar to database sequences of the respective target groups. Estimated cell numbers based on Holophagae-, Luteolibacter/Prosthecobacter- and unclassified Verrucomicrobiaceae subdivision 1-specific qPCRs from leek rhizosphere compartments and bulk soils demonstrated higher preference for one or both rhizosphere compartments above bulk soil for all three bacterial groups.
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