Analysis of artifacts suggests DGGE should not be used for quantitative diversity analysis

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68 Scopus citations


PCR-denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (PCR-DGGE) is widely used in microbial ecology for the analysis of comparative community structure. However, artifacts generated during PCR-DGGE of mixed template communities impede the application of this technique to quantitative analysis of community diversity. The objective of the current study was to employ an artificial bacterial community to document and analyze artifacts associated with multiband signatures and preferential template amplification and to highlight their impacts on the use of this technique for quantitative diversity analysis. Six bacterial species (three Betaproteobacteria, two Alphaproteobacteria, and one Firmicutes) were amplified individually and in combinations with primers targeting the V7/V8 region of the 16S rRNA gene. Two of the six isolates produced multiband profiles demonstrating that band number does not correlate directly with α-diversity. Analysis of the multiple bands from one of these isolates confirmed that both bands had identical sequences which lead to the hypothesis that the multiband pattern resulted from two distinct structural conformations of the same amplicon. In addition, consistent preferential amplification was demonstrated following pairwise amplifications of the six isolates. DGGE and real time PCR analysis identified primer mismatch and PCR inhibition due to 16S rDNA secondary structure as the most probable causes of preferential amplification patterns. Reproducible DGGE community profiles generated in this study confirm that PCR-DGGE provides an excellent high-throughput tool for comparative community structure analysis, but that method-specific artifacts preclude its use for accurate comparative diversity analysis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)256-263
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Microbiological Methods
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2013


  • DGGE artifact
  • Microbial diversity
  • Multitemplate PCR
  • Preferential amplification

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Microbiology (medical)


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