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Title: Simulated rRNA/DNA Ratios Show Potential To Misclassify Active Populations as Dormant

The use of rRNA/DNA ratios derived from surveys of rRNA sequences in RNA and DNA extracts is an appealing but poorly validated approach to infer the activity status of environmental microbes. To improve the interpretation of rRNA/DNA ratios, we performed simulations to investigate the effects of community structure, rRNA amplification, and sampling depth on the accuracy of rRNA/DNA ratios in classifying bacterial populations as “active” or “dormant.” Community structure was an insignificant factor. In contrast, the extent of rRNA amplification that occurs as cells transition from dormant to growing had a significant effect (P < 0.0001) on classification accuracy, with misclassification errors ranging from 16 to 28%, depending on the rRNA amplification model. The error rate increased to 47% when communities included a mixture of rRNA amplification models, but most of the inflated error was false negatives (i.e., active populations misclassified as dormant). Sampling depth also affected error rates (P < 0.001). Inadequate sampling depth produced various artifacts that are characteristic of rRNA/DNA ratios generated from real communities. These data show important constraints on the use of rRNA/DNA ratios to infer activity status. Whereas classification of populations as active based on rRNA/DNA ratios appears generally valid, classification of populations asmore » dormant is potentially far less accurate.« less
 [1] ;  [2] ;  [1] ;  [2] ; ORCiD logo [2]
  1. Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, New Haven, CT (United States). Dept. of Environmental Sciences
  2. Los Alamos National Lab. (LANL), Los Alamos, NM (United States)
Publication Date:
Report Number(s):
Journal ID: ISSN 0099-2240
Grant/Contract Number:
Accepted Manuscript
Journal Name:
Applied and Environmental Microbiology
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 83; Journal Issue: 11; Journal ID: ISSN 0099-2240
American Society for Microbiology
Research Org:
Los Alamos National Lab. (LANL), Los Alamos, NM (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE Office of Science (SC). Biological and Environmental Research (BER) (SC-23)
Country of Publication:
United States
59 BASIC BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES; Biological Science; microbial activity
OSTI Identifier: