Soil microbial diversity represents the largest global reservoir of novel microorganisms and enzymes. In this study, we coupled functional metagenomics and DNA stable-isotope probing (DNA-SIP) using multiple plant-derived carbon substrates and diverse soils to characterize active soil bacterial communities and their glycoside hydrolase genes, which have value for industrial applications. We incubated samples from three disparate Canadian soils (tundra, temperate rainforest, and agricultural) with five native carbon (12C) or stable-isotope-labeled (13C) carbohydrates (glucose, cellobiose, xylose, arabinose, and cellulose). Indicator species analysis revealed high specificity and fidelity for many uncultured and unclassified bacterial taxa in the heavy DNA for all soils and substrates. Among characterized taxa,
Actinomycetales(Salinibacterium), Rhizobiales(Devosia), Rhodospirillales(Telmatospirillum), and Caulobacterales( Phenylobacteriumand Asticcacaulis) were bacterial indicator species for the heavy substrates and soils tested. Both Actinomycetalesand Caulobacterales(Phenylobacterium) were associated with metabolism of cellulose, and Alphaproteobacteriawere associated with the metabolism of arabinose; members of the order Rhizobialeswere strongly associated with the metabolism of xylose. Annotated metagenomic data suggested diverse glycoside hydrolase gene representation within the pooled heavy DNA. By screening 2,876 cloned fragments derived from the 13C-labeled DNA isolated from soils incubated with cellulose, we demonstrate the power of combining DNA-SIP, multiple-displacement amplification (MDA), and functional metagenomics by efficiently isolating multiple clones with activity on carboxymethyl cellulose and fluorogenic proxy substrates for carbohydrate-active enzymes. IMPORTANCEThe ability to identify genes based on function, instead of sequence homology, allows the discovery of genes that would not be identified through sequence alone. This is arguably the most powerful application of metagenomics for the recovery of novel genes and a natural partner of the stable-isotope-probing approach for targeting active-yet-uncultured microorganisms. We expanded on previous efforts to combine stable-isotope probing and metagenomics, enriching microorganisms from multiple soils that were active in degrading plant-derived carbohydrates, followed by construction of a cellulose-based metagenomic library and recovery of glycoside hydrolases through functional metagenomics. The major advance of our study was the discovery of active-yet-uncultivated soil microorganisms and enrichment of their glycoside hydrolases. We recovered positive cosmid clones in a higher frequency than would be expected with direct metagenomic analysis of soil DNA. This study has generated an invaluable metagenomic resource that future research will exploit for genetic and enzymatic potential.