Detection, Isolation, and Characterization of Plasmids in the Environment
Plasmids play a major role in the bacterial adaptation to changing and stressful environmental conditions caused by antibiotics, heavy metals, and disinfectants. However, the investigation of the ecology and diversity of environmental plasmids is challenging due to their typically low abundance in soil bacterial communities and the low cultivability of their hosts. Here we discuss the potentials and limitations of cultivation-dependent and cultivation-independent approaches for detecting and quantifying plasmids in total community DNA from environmental samples. Protocols for PCR-based detection of plasmid-specific sequences in total community DNA are presented. Furthermore, protocols to obtain and characterize plasmids either from isolates (endogenous plasmid isolation) or by capturing into a recipient strain by biparental and triparental mating will be provided.