The Macaulay Institute, Craigiebuckler, Aberdeen AB15 8QH, Scotland, UK.
The diversity of bacterial nitrogenase genes (nifH) and their mRNA transcription in ectomycorrhizas of Corsican pine (Pinus nigra) were examined. DNA and RNA were extracted from surface-sterilized and non-sterilized Corsican pine roots colonized by the ectomycorrhizal (ECM) fungi, Suillus variegatus and Tomentellopsis submollis. DNA-derived nifH polymerase chain reaction (PCR) products were obtained from all samples, but only a few reverse transcription PCRs for nifH mRNA were successful, suggesting that nitrogenase genes were not always transcribed. Several different nifH sequences were detected and the bacteria actively transcribing nifH were different from those whose genes were detected through DNA-based PCR. Putative nitrogenase amino acid sequences revealed that more than half of the nifH products were derived from methylotrophic bacteria, such as Methylocella spp. The next most frequent sequence types were similar to those from Burkholderia.