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Chapter 37 : Nucleotide Fingerprints in Nature
Microorganisms are the key to Earth’s habitability. They harvest light energy, produce organic matter, and facilitate the turnover of key bioelements like nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and sulfur (S). Furthermore, it now appears that certain ubiquitous marine microorganisms, e.g., Synechococcus, and Prochlorococcus, may have reduced cell quotas of membrane phospholipids, so they would not be accurately represented in the environmental microbial biomass assessment. The correlations between nucleic acid synthesis, protein synthesis, and cell growth are so universally accepted that they lend themselves well to the study of complex microbial assemblages in nature. This chapter focuses on the most basic and most widely used aspect of the environmental microbial nucleotide fingerprint, namely, the measurement of cellular ATP as a biomass indicator. The preferred method of ATP quantification is the firefly bioluminescence reaction, but a variety of analytical techniques are available for either discrete sample or continuous flow analyses. A review of analytical issues concerned with ATP extraction efficiency from soils has recently appeared. ADP and AMP are both quantitatively coextracted with ATP. Despite recent and significant progress, the field of microbial ecology is still "methods-limited" with regard to the most fundamental properties of natural microbial assemblages, namely, biomass and metabolic activity estimation of the total population.