Chapter 10 : Lipid Analyses for Viable Microbial Biomass, Community Composition, Metabolic Status, and In Situ Metabolism

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This chapter discusses how phospholipid fatty acids (PLFA) and other lipids can be used to estimate total viable microbial biomass, community composition, and metabolic status as well as the use of in situ C incorporation to determine metabolic pathways in environmental samples. The viable microbial biomass increases with the availability of metabolizable substrates and may decrease after their exhaustion. Gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) of PLFA as their methyl esters provides greater sensitivity and specificity than the LP method and additionally provides detailed information on the microbial community composition and metabolic status. Some PLFA are indicative of particular phylogenic groups, and considered together with the environment from which the sample was retrieved, can be helpful in interpreting results. Biomarkers for the metabolic status of microbial communities include those for starvation and toxicity, unbalanced growth, and aerobic versus anaerobic growth, among others. Ubiquinones (UQ) are biomarkers for oxic respiration that mediate electron transport to oxygen and nitrate, while menaquinones (MK) can carry electrons to any electron acceptor. Besides the major respiratory quinones UQ and MK, and also contain desmethylmenaquinones, methionaquinones, plastoquinones, rhodoquinones, and caldariellaquinones, which can also vary in the length of the side chain and, in the case of MK, in the degree of hydrogenation of the side chain.

Citation: Hedrick D, Peacock A, White* D. 2007. Lipid Analyses for Viable Microbial Biomass, Community Composition, Metabolic Status, and In Situ Metabolism, p 112-125. In Hurst C, Crawford R, Garland J, Lipson D, Mills A, Stetzenbach L (ed), Manual of Environmental Microbiology, Third Edition. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555815882.ch10

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Microbial Ecology
Fatty Acids
Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry
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Image of FIGURE 1

Variation in the glycerol moiety of phospholipids. The glycerol carbons are traditionally numbered with the top carbon in glycerol-based lipids as carbon 1 with the glycerol carbon attached to the polar head group of the lipid (X) as the third carbon. R and R are alkyl chains. For the sphingolipid, the carbon attached to the polar head group (X) is the first carbon.

Citation: Hedrick D, Peacock A, White* D. 2007. Lipid Analyses for Viable Microbial Biomass, Community Composition, Metabolic Status, and In Situ Metabolism, p 112-125. In Hurst C, Crawford R, Garland J, Lipson D, Mills A, Stetzenbach L (ed), Manual of Environmental Microbiology, Third Edition. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555815882.ch10
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Image of FIGURE 2

Expected responses of the biomarkers UQ/(UQ+MK) and (UQ+MK)/PLFA in an idealized sedimentary transect. Adapted from reference .

Citation: Hedrick D, Peacock A, White* D. 2007. Lipid Analyses for Viable Microbial Biomass, Community Composition, Metabolic Status, and In Situ Metabolism, p 112-125. In Hurst C, Crawford R, Garland J, Lipson D, Mills A, Stetzenbach L (ed), Manual of Environmental Microbiology, Third Edition. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555815882.ch10
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Examples of signature lipids and their cellular location

Citation: Hedrick D, Peacock A, White* D. 2007. Lipid Analyses for Viable Microbial Biomass, Community Composition, Metabolic Status, and In Situ Metabolism, p 112-125. In Hurst C, Crawford R, Garland J, Lipson D, Mills A, Stetzenbach L (ed), Manual of Environmental Microbiology, Third Edition. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555815882.ch10

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