U.S. Environmental Protection Agency


Date of this Version



Published in APPLIED AND ENVIRONMENTAL MICROBIOLOGY, June 2006, p. 4054–4060, Vol. 72, No. 6.


Several PCR methods have recently been developed to identify fecal contamination in surface waters. In all cases, researchers have relied on one gene or one microorganism for selection of host-specific markers. Here we describe the application of a genome fragment enrichment (GFE) method to identify host-specific genetic markers from fecal microbial community DNA. As a proof of concept, bovine fecal DNA was challenged against a porcine fecal DNA background to select for bovine-specific DNA sequences. Bioinformatic analyses of 380 bovine enriched metagenomic sequences indicated a preponderance of Bacteroidales-like regions predicted to encode membrane-associated and secreted proteins. Oligonucleotide primers capable of annealing to select Bacteroidales-like bovine GFE sequences exhibited extremely high specificity (>99%) in PCR assays with total fecal DNAs from 279 different animal sources. These primers also demonstrated a broad distribution of corresponding genetic markers (81% positive) among 148 different bovine sources. These data demonstrate that direct metagenomic DNA analysis by the competitive solution hybridization approach described is an efficient method for identifying potentially useful fecal genetic markers and for characterizing differences between environmental microbial communities.