The use of molecular markers should allow the rapid detection of nitrogen fixing cyanobacteria without culturing or testing to determine if collected organisms fix nitrogen. The presence of nif genes serves as a marker to determine the potential for nitrogen fixation in natural populations, and combined with ribosomal genes, identifies the taxonomic group of cyanobacteria present. Through the use of the 23S ribosomal and nifD genes, specific taxa of nitrogen fixing cyanobacteria can be identified. This method allows the identification of specific cyanobacteria present to be determined, as well as determination of the dominant groups. 1.Evaluate the level and pattern of variation in 23S rRNA and nifD genes in laboratory-cultured, axenic heterocystous cyanobacteria to develop a reference database. 2.Identify and evaluate the utility of taxon-specific molecular markers for the detection of nitrogen fixing cyanobacteria in aquatic environments, for identification from natural populations, eliminating the need to culture them in the laboratory.
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