In this study, ammonia-oxidizing bacteria present in biofilms resulting from a nitrifying reactor were detected by both a conventional FISH technique and an original in situ PCR technique. Both techniques showed that ammonia-oxidizing bacteria were found near the surface of the biofilms. However, after the biofilm had been exposed to 2 weeks of ammonia starvation, ammonia-oxidizing bacteria present in the biofilm could not be detected by fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) because they did not have sufficient copies of rRNA. In contrast, ammonia-oxidizing bacteria could be detected by in situ PCR with strong signal. It was thus demonstrated that a cell possessing a specific functional gene is detectable by in situ PCR regardless of its activity.
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