The microbiota of, in particular, disease-suppressive soils contains a wealth of antibiotic biosynthetic loci that are inaccessible by traditional cultivation-based techniques. Hence, we developed a methodology based on soil microbial DNA, which allowed the metagenomics-based unlocking of the relevant genes. Here, a streamlined soil metagenomics protocol is presented. The protocol consists of an optimized method to extract bacterial cells from a Rhizoctonia solani AG3 suppressive loamy sand soil followed by DNA extraction and purification, and the preparation of a clone library in an efficient host/vector system. Methods for the functional and genetic screening of the library for antibiotic production loci are also described. Using the suppressive soil, we thus produced, screened and tested an approximate 15,000-membered metagenomic library of fosmids in an Escherichia coli host. Functional screens, based on dual culturing of clone arrays with R. solani AG3 and Bacillus subtilis 168, were largely negative. Genetic screens, based on hybridizations with soil-generated probes for polyketide biosynthesis, non-ribosomal protein synthesis and gacA, revealed several inserts, of around 40-kb in size, with potential antibiotic production capacity. We present the full sequences of three selected clones. We further examine the challenges that still impinge on the metagenomic exploration of disease-suppressive soil.
- microbial community structure
- uncultured microorganisms
- environmental libraries