Pioneered by Microbial Insights founder Dr. D.C. White, phospholipid fatty acid analysis (PLFA) is used to quantify total viable biomass and provide a general profile of the microbial community. Phospholipid fatty acids are a main component of the cell membrane (“the skin”) of all microbes.

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PLFA ADVANTAGES:

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ACCURATE

PLFA are extracted directly from a sample removing the need to grow the bacteria and eliminating biases associated with traditional approaches (e.g., plate counts and MPNs).

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LIVING

PLFA decomposes quickly upon cell death, so quantification of total PLFA in a sample represents the concentration of viable (living) cells. Results reported as cells/mL, cells/g, etc.

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PROFILE

Some types of microorganisms produce specific types or “signature” PLFA biomarkers. While not specific like DNA based techniques, the relative proportions of these groups of PLFA biomarkers provide a general profile of the microbial community highlighting groups such as anaerobic metal reducers, sulfate reducers, fermenters, and fungi.

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STATUS

Proteobacteria modify specific PLFA biomarkers during periods of slow growth or in response to environmental stress providing an indicator of their physiological status and health.

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ADAPTIBLE

PLFA analysis is conducted as part of Stable Isotope Probing (SIP), an innovative technique in which Bio-Traps® amended with a 13C labeled contaminant are used to conclusively determine whether biodegradation is occurring.

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FLEXIBLE

Analysis can be performed on almost any type of sample (water, soil, sediments, Bio-Traps® and others).

HOW TO USE PHOSPHOLIPID FATTY ACID ANALYSIS:

Use PLFA to quantify total living biomass and produce a general profile of the microbial community composition.

Use PLFA to help answer…

  • What is the total viable biomass concentration?
  • Do subsurface conditions support microbial growth?
  • Has microbial biomass increased in response to amendments or other site activities?
  • What is the microbial community composition?
  • Has the microbial community changed? Does it reflect redox conditions?
  • As part of a stable isotope probing (SIP) study, phospholipid fatty acid analysis helps answer the question “Is biodegradation is occurring?”

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