Natural abundance δ15N and δ13C of DNA extracted from soil

Egbert Schwartz, Steven Blazewicz, Richard Doucett, Bruce A. Hungate, Stephen C. Hart, Paul Dijkstra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


We report the first simultaneous measurements of δ15N and δ13C of DNA extracted from surface soils. The isotopic composition of DNA differed significantly among nine different soils. The δ13C and δ15N of DNA was correlated with δ13C and δ15N of soil, respectively, suggesting that the isotopic composition of DNA is strongly influenced by the isotopic composition of soil organic matter. However, in all samples DNA was enriched in 13C relative to soil, indicating microorganisms fractionated C during assimilation or preferentially used 13C enriched substrates. Enrichment of DNA in 15N relative to soil was not consistently observed, but there were significant differences between δ15N of DNA and δ15N of soil for three different sites, suggesting microorganisms are fractionating N or preferentially using N substrates at different rates across these contrasting ecosystems. There was a strong linear correlation between δ15N of DNA and δ15N of the microbial biomass, which indicated DNA was depleted in 15N relative to the microbial biomass by approximately 3.4‰. Our results show that accurate and precise isotopic measurements of C and N in DNA extracted from the soil are feasible, and that these analyses may provide powerful tools for elucidating C and N cycling processes through soil microorganisms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3101-3107
Number of pages7
JournalSoil Biology and Biochemistry
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2007


  • DNA
  • Natural abundance δC
  • Natural abundance δN
  • Soil microbial biomass

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Soil Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Natural abundance δ15N and δ13C of DNA extracted from soil'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this