Identification of airborne bacterial and fungal community structures in an urban area by T-RFLP analysis and quantitative real-time PCR

Seung Hoon Lee, Hyo Jeong Lee, Se Jin Kim, Hyung Min Lee, Hojeong Kang, Yong Pyo Kim

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This study explores the characteristics of bacterial and fungal communities of total suspended particles (TSP) in the atmosphere by using various molecular methods. TSP samples were collected on a glass fiber filter at an urban location in the middle of the Korean Peninsula (Seoul) between middle autumn and early winter in 2007. From the aerosol samples, DNA could be extracted and DNA sequences were determined for bacteria and fungi. Terminal restriction length polymorphism (T-RFLP) analysis was applied to analyze the community structure of them. To estimate the concentration of DNA originating from bacterial and fungal communities, we used the quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (Q-PCR). Sequence analyses were also used to determine the identity of biological organisms. The number of bacteria and fungi in the air were between 5.19 × 101 and 4.31 × 103 cells m- 3 and from 9.56 × 101 to 4.22 × 104 cells m- 3, respectively and bacterium/fungus ratios ranged from 0.09 to 0.76 across the seven sampling dates. Most of the bacterial sequences found in our TSP samples were from Proteobacteria, Actinobacteria, Firmicutes, and Bacteroidetes. The fungal sequences were characteristic for Ascomycota, Basidiomycota, and Glomeromycota which are known to actively discharge spores into the atmosphere. The plant sequences could be also detected. We found that large shifts in the community structure of bacteria and fungi were present in our TSP samples collected on different dates. The results demonstrated that in our TSP samples collected at the urban site; (1) there were very diverse bacterial and fungal groups including potential pathogens and allergens and (2) there were temporal shifts in both bacterial and fungal communities in terms of both diversity and abundances across an inter-seasonal period.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1349-1357
Number of pages9
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Issue number6
StatePublished - 15 Feb 2010

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the Korea Science and Engineering Foundation (KOSEF) through the National Research Lab. Program (No. R0A-2006-000-10221-0 ) and the Center for Aquatic Ecosystem Restoration (CAER) of Eco-STAR project (No. 08-III-12) from Ministry of Environment (MOE), Korea. The authors gratefully acknowledge the NOAA Air Resources Laboratory (ARL) for the provision of the HYSPLIT transport and dispersion model.


  • Bacteria
  • Bioaerosols
  • Fungi
  • Molecular analysis
  • TSP


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