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Extraction of ergosterol from peaty soils and determination by high performance liquid chromatography

Anderson, P and Davidson, Christine and Littlejohn, David and Ure, Allan M. and Shand, Charles A. and Cheshire, Martin V. (1994) Extraction of ergosterol from peaty soils and determination by high performance liquid chromatography. Talanta, 41 (5). pp. 711-720. ISSN 0039-9140

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The ergosterol content of soil can be used as an indicator of fungal activity. A method has been developed for the extraction and determination of ergosterol in organic soils, as part of a study to assess the correlation between fungal activity and the sequestration of metal pollutants. The moisture content of the soil affected the extraction process. Four consecutive extractions with methanol removed >95% of the ergosterol that can be obtained from the fresh sample (63% moisture) by exhaustive extraction. By freeze drying the soils prior to extraction (a) up to 35% more ergosterol was extracted after a single extraction, (b) >90% of the recoverable ergosterol was collected in two extractions and (c) the repeatability of the extraction was improved. Storage of soil extracts in the absence of light prevents degradation of ergosterol. A previously reported method for determination of ergosterol by HPLC has been improved by modification of the eluant composition. With 46% methanol/46% acetonitrile/8% dichloromethane, ergosterol was eluted with good resolution approximately 8 min after injection of 20 mul of the extract. The detection limit of the HPLC method was 0.5 mug/ml ergosterol, equivalent to 0.06 mug/g in 25 g fresh soil. Changes in ergosterol contents of peaty soil treated with fungicide, and in samples of the peaty podzol and a humus iron podzol in the vicinity of fungal fruiting bodies, have been determined.