16S rRNA gene sequencing as a tool to study microbial populations in foods and process environments: limitations and opportunities

Tasja Buschhardt, Tina Beck Hansen, Martin Iain Bahl, Martin Asser Hansen, Waleed Abu Al-Soud, Søren Aabo

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Introduction: Methodological constraints during culturing and biochemical testing have left the true microbiological diversity of foods and process environments unexplored. Culture-independent molecular methods, such as 16S rRNA gene sequencing, may provide deeper insight into microbial communities and their role in food safety. During method optimization, we have identified several factors which distort the characterization of microbial populations, including DNA extraction methods, DNA polymerases, and most importantly the analyzed fragment of the 16S rRNA gene.
Methods: This study investigated microbial communities in meat and the meat process environment with special focus on the Enterobacteriaceae family as a subpopulation comprising enteropathogens including Salmonella. Samples were analyzed by a nested PCR approach combined with MiSeq® Illumina®16S DNA sequencing and standardized culture methods as cross reference.
Results: Taxonomic assignments and abundances of sequences in the total community and in the Enterobacteriaceae subpopulation were affected by the 16S rRNA gene variable region, DNA extraction methods, and polymerases chosen. However, community compositions were very reproducible when the same methods were used.
Conclusions: Altogether, we have shown that conclusions from population studies based on 16S rRNA gene sequencing need to be made with caution. Overcoming the constraints, we believe that population studies can give new research possibilities for e.g. interaction studies, identification and growth of indicator organisms, or source attribution.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Danish Microbiological Society Annual Congress 2015 : Programme & Abstracts
Place of PublicationCopenhagen
Publication date2015
Publication statusPublished - 2015
EventThe Danish Microbiological Society Annual Congress 2015 - Eigtved's Pakhus, Copenhagen, Denmark
Duration: 9 Nov 20159 Nov 2015


ConferenceThe Danish Microbiological Society Annual Congress 2015
LocationEigtved's Pakhus


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