Isolation of Culturable Yeasts and Molds from Soils to Investigate Fungal Population Structure
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Soil is host to an incredible amount of microbial life, with each gram containing up to billions of bacterial, archaeal, and fungal cells. Multicellular fungi such as molds and unicellular fungi, broadly defined as yeasts, fulfill essential roles in soil ecosystems as decomposers of organic material and as food sources for other soil dwellers. Fungal species diversity in soil is dependent on a multitude of climatic factors such as rainfall and temperature, as well as soil properties including organic matter, pH, and moisture. Lack of adequate environmental sampling, especially in regions of Asia, Africa, South America, and Central America, hinders the characterization of soil fungal communities and the discovery of novel species. We characterized soil fungal communities in nine countries across six continents using ~4,000 soil samples and a protocol developed in the laboratory for the isolation of yeasts and molds. This protocol begins with separate selective enrichment for yeasts and the medically relevant mold Aspergillus fumigatus, in liquid media while inhibiting bacterial growth. Resulting colonies are then transferred to solid media and further processed to obtain pure cultures, followed by downstream genetic characterization. Yeast species identity is established via sequencing of their internal transcribed spacer (ITS) region of the nuclear ribosomal RNA gene cluster, while global population structure of A. fumigatus is explored via microsatellite marker analysis. The protocol was successfully applied to isolate and characterize soil yeast and A. fumigatus populations in Cameroon, Canada, China, Costa Rica, Iceland, Peru, New Zealand, and Saudi Arabia. These findings revealed much-needed insights on global patterns in soil yeast diversity, as well as global population structure and antifungal resistance profiles of A. fumigatus. This paper presents the method of isolating both yeasts and A. fumigatus from international soil samples.
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