Effect of the earthworms lumbricus terrestris and aporrectodea caliginosa on bacterial diversity in soil

Taras Y. Nechitaylo, Michail M. Yakimov, Miguel Godinho, Kenneth N. Timmis, Elena Belogolova, Boris A. Byzov, Alexander V. Kurakov, David L. Jones, Peter N. Golyshin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Citations (Scopus)


Earthworms ingest large amounts of soil and have the potential to radically alter the biomass, activity, and structure of the soil microbial community. In this study, the diversity of eight bacterial groups from fresh soil, gut, and casts of the earthworms Lumbricus terrestris and Aporrectodea caliginosa were studied by single-strand conformation polymorphism (SSCP) analysis using both newly designed 16S rRNA gene-specific primer sets targeting Alphaproteobacteria, Betaproteobacteria, Gammaproteobacteria, Deltaproteobacteria, Bacteroidetes, Verrucomicrobia, Planctomycetes, and Firmicutes and a conventional universal primer set for SSCP, with RNA and DNA as templates. In parallel, the study of the relative abundance of these taxonomic groups in the same samples was performed using fluorescence in situ hybridization. Bacteroidetes, Alphaproteobacteria, and Betaproteobacteria were predominant in communities from the soil and worm cast samples. Representatives of classes Flavobacteria and Sphingobacteria (Bacteroidetes) and Pseudomonas spp. (low-abundant Gammaproteobacteria) were detected in soil and worm cast samples with conventional and taxon-targeting SSCP and through the sequence analysis of 16S rRNA clone libraries. Physiologically active unclassified Sphingomonadaceae (Alphaproteobacteria) and Alcaligenes spp. (Betaproteobacteria) also maintained their diversities during transit through the earthworm intestine and were found on taxon-targeting SSCP profiles from the soil and worm cast samples. In conclusion, our results suggest that some specific bacterial taxonomic groups maintain their diversity and even increase their relative numbers during transit through the gastrointestinal tract of earthworms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)574-587
Number of pages14
JournalMicrobial Ecology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes


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