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Title: Comparing DNA, RNA and protein levels for measuring microbial dynamics in soil microcosms amended with nitrogen fertilizer

To what extent multi-omic techniques could reflectin situmicrobial process rates remains unclear, especially for highly diverse habitats like soils. Here, we performed microcosm incubations using sandy soil from an agricultural site in Midwest USA. Microcosms amended with isotopically labeled ammonium and urea to simulate a fertilization event showed nitrification (up to 4.1 ± 0.87 µg N-NO3g−1dry soil d−1) and accumulation of N2O after 192 hours of incubation. Nitrification activity (NH4+ → NH2OH → NO → NO2- → NO3) was accompanied by a 6-fold increase in relative expression of the 16S rRNA gene (RNA/DNA) between 10 and 192 hours of incubation for ammonia-oxidizing bacteriaNitrosomonasandNitrosospira, unlike archaea and comammox bacteria, which showed stable gene expression. A strong relationship between nitrification activity and betaproteobacterial ammonia monooxygenase and nitrite oxidoreductase transcript abundances revealed that mRNA quantitatively reflected measured activity and was generally more sensitive than DNA under these conditions. Although peptides related to housekeeping proteins from nitrite-oxidizing microorganisms were detected, their abundance was not significantly correlated with activity, revealing that meta-proteomics provided only a qualitative assessment of activity. Altogether, these findings underscore the strengths and limitations of multi-omic approaches for assessing diverse microbial communities in soils and provide new insights into nitrification.

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Award ID(s):
1831599 1831582
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Scientific Reports
Nature Publishing Group
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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