Quantification of Escherichia coli O157: H7 in soils using an inhibitor-resistant NanoGene assay

Xiaofang Wang, Mark R. Liles, Ahjeong Son

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Humic acids are ubiquitous and abundant in terrestrial environments; therefore, they are often co-extracted with nucleic acids and interfere with quantitative PCR (qPCR) assays. In this study a recently developed NanoGene assay that is resistant to interference by humic acids was evaluated for gene detection in soil samples. The NanoGene assay utilizes a combination of magnetic beads, dual quantum dots labels, and DNA hybridization in solution. Seven soil samples containing different amounts of organic matter were tested to compare NanoGene and qPCR assays for their respective ability to detect a bacterial pathogen. We spiked the soils with Escherichia coli O157:H7, extracted genomic DNA, and conducted NanoGene and qPCR assays targeting the E. coli O157:H7-specific eaeA gene. To prevent the inhibition of PCR that is common when using DNA extracted from soils, we used a range of template DNA concentrations and BSA addition in the qPCR assay. Compared to the qPCR assay the NanoGene assay was significantly more resistant to the inhibitory effect of humic acids, successfully quantifying the eaeA gene within a linear (R2 = 0.99) range of 105 through 108 CFU/g soil for all seven soil samples tested. In contrast, the qPCR assay was significantly inhibited using the same template DNA isolated from soils containing a range of organic content (2.0%-12%). Interestingly, the qPCR assay was still inhibited despite additional purification steps, suggesting that humic acids were still associated with DNA at a level that was inhibitory to qPCR. This study demonstrated that the NanoGene assay is suitable for quantitative gene detection in diverse soil types and is not susceptible to inhibition by humic acids and other organic compounds that commonly lead to false negative results in qPCR assays.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9-15
Number of pages7
JournalSoil Biology and Biochemistry
StatePublished - Mar 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by National Science Foundation (CAREER award #1054768 ) and USGS-Alabama Water Resources Research Institute .


  • Escherichia coli O157:H7
  • Humic acids
  • Magnetic beads (MB)
  • NanoGene assay
  • QPCR
  • Quantum dot nanoparticles (QDs)


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