Products: Sherlock PLFA Analysis System: Automated Soil PLFA & NLFA Analysis

Note, if you are interested in Soil Microbiology Testing Services for PLFA and NLFA, our sister company, Microbial ID, provides these services.

Soil Microbial Community Analysis by Fatty Acid Profiling

Phospholipids are an essential structural component of all microbial cell membranes, including those found in soil. Unlike DNA, which can be present in living or dead cells, phospholipids are only present in living soil microbes. Phospholipid fatty acids (PLFAs) are the main structural component of the phospholipid molecule and can serve as useful biomarkers to determine the living microbial types and abundance in the soil (e.g. branched chain fatty acids are a biomarker for Gram-positive bacteria).

Neutral lipids (mainly in the form of triglycerides) are an essential energy storage component of Eukaryotic organisms. Neutral lipid fatty acids (NLFAs) are the main structural component of the neutral lipid molecule and in microbial community analysis, NLFAs are mainly used to measure the abundance of Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi (AMF), the most widespread symbiont fungus, involved with 86% of land plants and many important crops.

Multiple different Gas Chromatography (GC) and Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectroscopy (GC-MS) methods and instrument types have been used to determine soil lipid profiles. However, most of this analysis is performed manually, is time consuming and error-prone. The Sherlock™ PLFA Analysis System in conjunction with a high-throuput PLFA method co-developed between MIDI, Inc. and the USDA-ARS (Buyer and Sasser, 2012) automatically names all the PLFAs and NLFAs in a sample, categorizes them by microbial origin (e.g. Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi) and performs biomass calculations and ratios (e.g. Fungi/Bacteria).


Fatty Acid and Omega-3 Analysis of Marine Oils

In addition to the soil lipid analysis capabilities, The Sherlock™ PLFA Analysis System can be used for the automated fatty acid analysis of marine oils, including fish oil supplements. All of the same tools that are used for the PLFA Analysis can be used with the Sherlock Marine Oil Analysis Package. In addition to the automated fatty acid compound naming, quantitation with an Internal Standard (ISTD), automated calculations of key groups (e.g. Omega-3s) and various ratios (e.g. EPA:DHA) can be calculated seamlessly.

Key Features of the Sherlock™ PLFA Analysis System

  • Automated analysis of fatty acids from Soils and Marine Oils
  • More than 500 peer-reviewed publications
  • Works on both GC and GC-MS
  • Works with any fatty acid extraction method


Contact MIDI for further information on the Sherlock™ PLFA Analysis System.