Microbial Metagenome Profiling Using Amplicon Length Heterogeneity-Polymerase Chain Reaction Proves More Effective Than Elemental Analysis in Discriminating Soil Specimens
The combination of soil's ubiquity and its intrinsic abiotic and biotic information can contribute greatly to the forensic field. Although there are physical and chemical characterization methods of soil comparison for forensic purposes, these require a level of expertise not always encountered in crime laboratories. We hypothesized that soil microbial community profiling could be used to discriminate between soil types by providing biological fingerprints that confer uniqueness. Three of the six Miami-Dade soil types were randomly selected and sampled. We compared the microbial metagenome profiles generated using amplicon length heterogeneity-polymerase chain reaction analysis of the 16S rRNA genes with inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectroscopy analysis of 13 elements (Al, B, Ca, Cu, Fe, K, Mg, Mn, Na, P, S, Si, and Zn) that are commonly encountered in soils. Bray–Curtis similarity index and analysis of similarity were performed on all data to establish differences within sites, among sites, and across two seasons. These data matrices were used to group samples that shared similar community patterns using nonmetric multidimensional scaling analysis. We concluded that while chemical characterization could provide some differentiation between soils, microbial metagenome profiling was better able to discriminate between the soil types and had a high degree of reproducibility, therefore proving to be a potential tool for forensic soil comparisons.
Keywords: amplicon length heterogeneity (ALH); elemental analysis; forensic science; inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectroscopy; microbial forensics; microbial profiling; soil forensics; soil metagenome
Document Type: Research Article
Affiliations: 1: International Forensic Research Institute, Florida International University, 11200 SW 8th Street, Miami, FL 33199. 2: USDA Agricultural Research Service, Northwest Irrigation and Soils Research Laboratory, 3793 N 3600 E, Kimberly, ID 83341. 3: Department of Biological Sciences, Florida International University, 11200 SW 8th Street, Miami, FL 33199.
Publication date: November 1, 2006