Effect of target gene sequence evenness and dominance on real-time PCR quantification of artificial sulfate-reducing microbial communities

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Quantitative real-time PCR of phylogenetic and functional marker genes is among the most commonly used techniques to quantify the abundance of microbial taxa in environmental samples. However, in most environmental applications, the approach is a rough assessment of population abundance rather than an exact absolute quantification method because of PCR-based estimation biases caused by multiple factors. Previous studies on these technical issues have focused on primer or template sequence features or PCR reaction conditions. However, how target gene sequence characteristics (e.g., evenness and dominance) in environmental samples affect qPCR quantifications has not been well studied. Here, we compared three primer sets targeting the beta subunit of the dissimilatory sulfite reductase (dsrB) to investigate qPCR quantification performance under different target gene sequence evenness and dominance conditions using artificial gBlock template mixtures designed accordingly. Our results suggested that the qPCR quantification performance of all tested primer sets was determined by the comprehensive effect of the target gene sequence evenness and dominance in environmental samples. Generally, highly degenerate primer sets have equivalent or better qPCR quantification results than a more target-specific primer set. Low template concentration in this study (~105 copies/L) will exaggerate the qPCR quantification results difference among tested primer sets. Improvements to the accuracy and reproducibility of qPCR assays for gene copy number quantification in environmental microbiology and microbial ecology studies should be based on prior knowledge of target gene sequence information acquired by metagenomic analysis or other approaches, careful selection of primer sets, and proper reaction conditions optimization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0299930
JournalPloS one
Issue number3 March
StatePublished - Mar 2024

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Copyright: © 2024 Du, Behrens.


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