The influence of soil environmental factors such as aeration on the ecology of microorganisms involved in the mineralization and degradation of the popular soil-applied pre-emergent herbicide, metolachlor is unknown. To address this knowledge gap, we utilized DNA-based stable isotope probing (SIP) where soil microcosms were incubated aerobically or anaerobically and received herbicide treatments with unlabeled metolachlor or 13C-metolachlor. Mineralization of metolachlor was confirmed as noted from the evolution of 14CO2 from 14C-metolachlor-treated microcosms and clearly demonstrated the efficient utilization of the herbicide as a carbon source. Terminal restriction fragment length polymorphisms (T-RFLP) bacterial community profiling performed on soil DNA extracts indicated that fragment 307 bp from aerobic soil and 212 bp from anaerobic soil were detected only in the herbicide-treated (both unlabeled metolachlor and 13C-metolachlor) soils when compared to the untreated control microcosms. T-RFLP profiles from the ultracentrifugation fractions illustrated that these individual fragments experienced an increase in relative abundance at a higher buoyant density (BD) in the labeled fractions when compared to the unlabeled herbicide amendment fractions. The shift in BD of individual T-RFLP fragments in the density-resolved fractions suggested the incorporation of 13C from labeled herbicide into the bacterial DNA and enabled the identification of organisms responsible for metolachlor uptake from the soil. Subsequent cloning and 16S rRNA gene sequencing of the 13C-enriched fractions implicated the role of organisms closely related to Bacillus spp. in aerobic mineralization and members of Acidobacteria phylum in anaerobic mineralization of metolachlor in soil.
- Metolachlor herbicide
- Stable isotope probing