Kravchenko, A. N., A. K. Guber, B. S. Razavi, J. Koestel, E. V. Blagodatskaya, and Y. Kuzyakov. 2019. Spatial patterns of extracellular enzymes: Combining X-ray computed micro-tomography and 2D zymography. Soil Biology and Biochemistry 135:411-419.
Linking the distribution of enzyme activity to the size and properties of soil pores is a necessary prerequisite for mechanistic understanding of soil biochemical processes. In this study we used soil 2D zymography and X-ray computed tomography (μCT) to assess the relationship between enzymes and pores. The objectives of the study were (i) to assess spatial distribution patterns in the activity of six enzymes contributing to C, N and P cycles, namely, cellobiohydrolase, β-glucosidase, xylanase acid phosphatase, leucine aminopeptidase, and N-acetylglucosaminidase, in soils from five long-term land use and management practices, (ii) to study the correlation between enzyme activities and μCT information, i.e., pore characteristics and image grayscale values, and (iii) to explore the potential use of soil 2D zymography in predicting enzyme activities within 3D soil cores. 3D pore-size distributions were obtained from μCT images of 13 intact soil cores and then 8–15 2D zymography maps were taken from each core. Spatial distributions in the activities of all studied enzymes were auto-correlated; the spatial correlation ranges were equal to ∼7–8 mm. The relative activity of all enzymes was positively associated within 60–180 μm Ø pores. Combining 3D μCT information with 2D zymography maps visualized the overall patterns of enzyme activity distributions with respect to soil pores and particulate organic matter locations. Based on the findings we propose a conceptual scheme relating localization of microorganisms, enzymes and substrates to pores of different size ranges. Specifically, we suggest that pores in the tens of microns size range represent optimal microbial habitats, and as such are associated with greater microbial abundance, leading to high enzyme production and activity.
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