As scientists behind Healthy Hydroponics, we know that it can be difficult and confusing to understand some of the jargon that is used in presentations, discussions, and writings about microbiology. It is why we strive to communicate as clearly as we can with growers who may not be familiar with these terms. One way we are helping growers understand the scientific terminology commonly used when discussing the microbiome is by creating a glossary of terms.
Some of these words may have multiple meanings in other contexts. Here we define these words in the context of microbiology in a simplified manner for growers.
This list will be updated as necessary.
How to Use: Hold CTRL-F (Windows) or cmd-f (Mac) to find the term on the page or scroll down the list below.
Bacterium (plural: bacteria)
Fungus (plural: fungi)
16S rRNA gene (16S ribosomal RNA gene)
A gene encoding the small subunit of the ribosome in Bacteria and Archaea. A partial or complete 16S rRNA gene is commonly used for classification. This gene can be thought of as a barcode for classifying bacteria.
18S rRNA gene (18S ribosomal RNA gene)
A gene encoding the small subunit of the ribosome in Eukaryotes. A partial or complete 18S rRNA gene is commonly used for classification. This gene can be thought of as a barcode for classifying eukaryotes.
A piece of DNA that is used as the source or template for producing more copies of the DNA through a process called amplification. For example, an amplicon can be a marker gene that is sequenced to classify organisms.
Archaea, along with Bacteria and Eukaryota, is also a domain (highest taxonomic category).
Archaeum [plural: archaea]
A single-celled organism that lacks a membrane-bound nucleus and has structural and molecular characteristics different from bacteria and eukaryotes.
Bacterium [plural: bacteria]
A single-celled organism that lacks a membrane-bound nucleus (nucleus: a structure in a cell that contains the genetic material of the cell). Bacteria, along with Eukaryota and Archaea, is also a domain (the highest taxonomic category).
A technique that requires growing (culturing) organisms to study them. For example, visualizing the morphologies of bacteria requires culture-dependent methods to grow the bacteria before being able to see them under a microscope. The majority of microbial species cannot be cultured.
A technique that does not require growing (culturing) organisms to study them. For example, sequencing DNA in a sample is a culture-independent technique to study the types of microorganisms in that sample.
DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid)
A molecule that contains the genetic code (blueprint) for growth, development, and reproduction of an organism. The DNA of an organism or a community of organisms can be sequenced to identify its genes or composition of its member organisms.
An organism that can be multicellular (composed of multiple cells) or unicellular/single-celled (composed of one cell) where each cell contains a membrane-bound nucleus (nucleus: a structure in a cell that contains the genetic material of the cell). Some examples of eukaryotes include: fungi/moulds, yeasts, Pythium, nematodes, and algae. Eukaryota, along with Bacteria and Archaea, is also a domain (the highest taxonomic category).
Fungus [plural: fungi]
A member of Eukaryotes that includes moulds, yeasts, and mushrooms.
An organism’s entire set of genetic material or DNA encoding instructions for growth, development, and reproduction of the organism.
ITS (intergenic transcribed spacer)
A sequence of nucleotides between genes encoding the small and large subunit of the ribosome in fungi, commonly used as a marker gene. This sequence can be thought of as a barcode for classifying fungi.
A specific sequence of DNA signifying a partial or complete gene or intergenic region (region between genes) that is used to differentiate between taxonomic groups.
A community of microorganisms in a particular environment.
A microscopic organism that can be unicellular or multicellular. Microorganisms include bacteria, archaea, fungi, etc.
The ability to cause disease.
A ribosome is a structure in cells that synthesizes proteins.
The process of determining the order of nucleotides (building blocks of DNA) in DNA.
The system of classifying organisms. The order of taxonomic categories of organisms from the broad to specific: domain, phylum, class, order, family, genus, species.