The microbial populations in no-till agricultural soil and casts of the earthworm Lumbricus rubellus were examined by culturing and molecular methods. Clone libraries of the 16S rRNA genes were prepared from DNA isolated directly from the soil and earthworm casts. Although no single phylum dominated the soil library of 95 clones, the largest numbers of clones were from Acidobacteria (14%), Cytophagales (13%), Chloroflexi (8%), and γ-Proteobacteria (8%). While the cast clone library of 102 clones was similar to the soil library, the abundances of several taxa were different. Representatives of the Pseudomonas genus as well as the Actinobacteria and Firmicutes increased in number, and one group of unclassified organisms found in the soil library was absent in the cast library. Likewise, soil and cast archaeal 16S rRNA gene libraries were similar, although the abundances of some groups were different. Two hundred and thirty aerobic bacteria were also isolated on general heterotrophic media from casts, burrows, and soil. The cast isolates were both phenotypically and genotypically different from the soil isolates. The cast isolates were more likely to reduce nitrate, grow on acetate and Casamino Acids, and utilize fewer sugars than the soil isolates. On the basis of their ribotypes, the cast isolates were dominated by Aeromonas spp. (28%), which were not found in the soil isolates, and other γ-Proteobacteria (49%). In contrast, the soil isolates were mostly Actinobacteria (53%), Firmicutes (16%), and γ-Proteobacteria (19%). Isolates obtained from the sides of earthworm burrows were not different from the soil isolates. Diversity indices for the collections of isolates as well as rRNA gene libraries indicated that the species richness and evenness were decreased in the casts from their levels in the soil. These results were consistent with a model where a large portion of the microbial population in soil passes through the gastrointestinal tract of the earthworm unchanged while representatives of some phyla increase in abundance
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