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      ITS as an environmental DNA barcode for fungi: an in silico approach reveals potential PCR biases

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          Abstract

          Background

          During the last 15 years the internal transcribed spacer (ITS) of nuclear DNA has been used as a target for analyzing fungal diversity in environmental samples, and has recently been selected as the standard marker for fungal DNA barcoding. In this study we explored the potential amplification biases that various commonly utilized ITS primers might introduce during amplification of different parts of the ITS region in samples containing mixed templates ('environmental barcoding'). We performed in silico PCR analyses with commonly used primer combinations using various ITS datasets obtained from public databases as templates.

          Results

          Some of the ITS primers, such as ITS1-F, were hampered with a high proportion of mismatches relative to the target sequences, and most of them appeared to introduce taxonomic biases during PCR. Some primers, e.g. ITS1-F, ITS1 and ITS5, were biased towards amplification of basidiomycetes, whereas others, e.g. ITS2, ITS3 and ITS4, were biased towards ascomycetes. The assumed basidiomycete-specific primer ITS4-B only amplified a minor proportion of basidiomycete ITS sequences, even under relaxed PCR conditions. Due to systematic length differences in the ITS2 region as well as the entire ITS, we found that ascomycetes will more easily amplify than basidiomycetes using these regions as targets. This bias can be avoided by using primers amplifying ITS1 only, but this would imply preferential amplification of 'non-dikarya' fungi.

          Conclusions

          We conclude that ITS primers have to be selected carefully, especially when used for high-throughput sequencing of environmental samples. We suggest that different primer combinations or different parts of the ITS region should be analyzed in parallel, or that alternative ITS primers should be searched for.

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          Most cited references 20

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          The thermodynamics of DNA structural motifs.

          DNA secondary structure plays an important role in biology, genotyping diagnostics, a variety of molecular biology techniques, in vitro-selected DNA catalysts, nanotechnology, and DNA-based computing. Accurate prediction of DNA secondary structure and hybridization using dynamic programming algorithms requires a database of thermodynamic parameters for several motifs including Watson-Crick base pairs, internal mismatches, terminal mismatches, terminal dangling ends, hairpins, bulges, internal loops, and multibranched loops. To make the database useful for predictions under a variety of salt conditions, empirical equations for monovalent and magnesium dependence of thermodynamics have been developed. Bimolecular hybridization is often inhibited by competing unimolecular folding of a target or probe DNA. Powerful numerical methods have been developed to solve multistate-coupled equilibria in bimolecular and higher-order complexes. This review presents the current parameter set available for making accurate DNA structure predictions and also points to future directions for improvement.
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            454 Pyrosequencing analyses of forest soils reveal an unexpectedly high fungal diversity.

            * Soil fungi play a major role in ecological and biogeochemical processes in forests. Little is known, however, about the structure and richness of different fungal communities and the distribution of functional ecological groups (pathogens, saprobes and symbionts). * Here, we assessed the fungal diversity in six different forest soils using tag-encoded 454 pyrosequencing of the nuclear ribosomal internal transcribed spacer-1 (ITS-1). No less than 166 350 ITS reads were obtained from all samples. In each forest soil sample (4 g), approximately 30 000 reads were recovered, corresponding to around 1000 molecular operational taxonomic units. * Most operational taxonomic units (81%) belonged to the Dikarya subkingdom (Ascomycota and Basidiomycota). Richness, abundance and taxonomic analyses identified the Agaricomycetes as the dominant fungal class. The ITS-1 sequences (73%) analysed corresponded to only 26 taxa. The most abundant operational taxonomic units showed the highest sequence similarity to Ceratobasidium sp., Cryptococcus podzolicus, Lactarius sp. and Scleroderma sp. * This study validates the effectiveness of high-throughput 454 sequencing technology for the survey of soil fungal diversity. The large proportion of unidentified sequences, however, calls for curated sequence databases. The use of pyrosequencing on soil samples will accelerate the study of the spatiotemporal dynamics of fungal communities in forest ecosystems.
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              The molecular revolution in ectomycorrhizal ecology: peeking into the black-box.

               T Horton,  T D Bruns (2001)
              Molecular tools have now been applied for the past 5 years to dissect ectomycorrhizal (EM) community structure, and they have propelled a resurgence in interest in the field. Results from these studies have revealed that: (i) EM communities are impressively diverse and are patchily distributed at a fine scale below ground; (ii) there is a poor correspondence between fungi that appear dominant as sporocarps vs. those that appear dominant on roots; (iii) members of Russulaceae, Thelephoraceae, and/or non-thelephoroid resupinates are among the most abundant EM taxa in ecosystems sampled to date; (iv) dissimilar plants are associated with many of the same EM species when their roots intermingle--this occurs on a small enough spatial scale that fungal individuals are likely to be shared by dissimilar plants; and (v) mycoheterotrophic plants have highly specific fungal associations. Although, these results have been impressive, they have been tempered by sampling difficulties and limited by the taxonomic resolution of restriction fragment length polymorphism methods. Minor modifications of the sampling schemes, and more use of direct sequencing, has the potential to solve these problems. Use of additional methods, such as in situ hybridization to ribosomal RNA or hybridization coupled to microarrays, are necessary to open up the analysis of the mycelial component of community structure.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                BMC Microbiol
                BMC Microbiology
                BioMed Central
                1471-2180
                2010
                9 July 2010
                : 10
                : 189
                Affiliations
                [1 ]National Centre for Biosystematics, Natural History Museum, University of Oslo, P.O. Box 1172 Blindern, NO-0318 Oslo, Norway
                [2 ]Microbial Evolution Research Group (MERG), Department of Biology, University of Oslo, P.O. Box 1066 Blindern, N-0316 Oslo, Norway
                [3 ]Laboratoire d'Ecologie Alpine (LECA), CNRS UMR 5553, University Joseph Fourier, BP 53, 38041 Grenoble Cedex 9, France
                Article
                1471-2180-10-189
                10.1186/1471-2180-10-189
                2909996
                20618939
                Copyright ©2010 Bellemain et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

                This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

                Categories
                Research Article

                Microbiology & Virology

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