Argonne National Laboratory

Terragenomics: National Soil Metagenomics Project

Terragenomics: National Soil Metagenomics Project

Argonne has started a pilot project for a comprehensive metagenomics study of the nation's soil — DNA sequence data for microorganisms. The project database will contain sequence data (metagenomes) and additional information (pH, soil use, elemental cycling) for about 50 different soil types across the United States. The aim of this project is to  launch a larger effort for the comprehensive characterization of the microbial content in our nation's soils as the first step in understanding community composition, elemental cycling (including carbon, nitrogen, sulfur, and phosphorus), and secondary metabolism.

By comparing the microbial soil composition nationwide, we will begin to determine the keystone microbes in different environments, and their contributions to the global carbon, nitrogen, and sulfur cycles.

The project will begin sampling at approximately 50 field sites. At every location, we will sequence two samples of DNA. The DNA will be extracted from the microbial fraction of the soil without cloning or amplification. Every sampling location will be described by temperature, pH, land-use type etc. The sites with be characterized by GPS to precisely define the location. We will also add soil respiration data by using a mobile CO2 turnover testing device. We will also accept soil and/or DNA samples from researchers nationwide for inclusion in the program.

A open, comprehensive, web enabled knowledgebase will be set up that makes all data and subsequent analyses immediately available. All data will be also available for download. The first metagenome data sets will be made available in Spring 2008.