Mar 25, 2008

Development and validation of a molecular technique for the analysis of archived formalin-preserved phytoplankton samples permits retrospective assessment of Emiliania huxleyi communities

Journal of Microbiological Methods
Steven J RipleyDeclan C Schroeder


The coccolithophores, particularly the species Emiliania huxleyi (Lohmann) Hay & Mohler, account for the bulk of global calcium carbonate production and as such play a fundamental role in global CO2 cycling and the carbonate chemistry of the oceans. To evaluate the response of this functional group to the effects of climate change, we undertook a feasibility study to determine whether a retrospective approach could be used on archived coccolithophore datasets. We demonstrate for the first time a technique for the extraction of E. huxleyi nucleic acids from archived formalin-fixed samples of the long-term Continuous Plankton Recorder. Molecular analysis of a nine year old formalin-fixed sample reveals the presence of a diverse population of E. huxleyi genotypes within a developing coccolithophore bloom. In addition, E. huxleyi sequences were amplified from a number of formalin-fixed samples, the earliest of which was collected in August 1972. This molecular assay promises the possibility of studying global variations in the distribution and genetic make-up of E. huxleyi communities over extensive periods of time.

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