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Science of The Total Environment
Volume 822, 2022, 153365

Catalytic efficiency of soil enzymes explains temperature sensitivity: Insights from physiological theory

Chaoyang Liua, Haixia Tiana, Xiaoyue Guc, Ni Lia

College of Natural Resources and Environment, Northwest A&F University, Key Laboratory of Plant Nutrition and Agro-environment in Northwest China, Ministry of Agriculture, Yangling, Shaanxi 712100, China.


Soil enzymes are crucial for carbon and nutrient cycling and are highly sensitive to warming. Biochemical reaction rates increase with temperature according to the Arrhenius law, but changes in microbial physiology may partially counteract this warming-induced acceleration that leads enzymatic rates to deviate from Arrhenius law. Here, we attempt to reconcile disparate views on the enzyme responses to warming based on the Arrhenius law and physiological theory by enzyme catalytic efficiency. In this study, we tested the kinetic parameters of five key enzymes of C, N, and P cycling to warming (from 0 to 40 °C) in cropland soils originating from 5 different temperate zones. The soils were incubated for one month at 0, 10, 20, 30, and 40 °C (±0.5 °C) with 60% water holding capacity (WHC). The kinetic parameters were calculated and measured at a range of 4-methyumbelliferone (MUB)-substrate concentrations. We found that catalytic efficiency (Vmax/Km) of individual enzymes ranged from 0.05 to 27 s−1 between 0 and 40 °C. Maximum reaction rate (Vmax) increased with warming, while Vmax/Km of most enzymes remained stable by warming at low temperatures (up to 10 °C), and it raised from 20 to 40 °C. Most enzymes had lower substrate affinities (Km) and increased their efficiency with warming. Consistent with studies considering Arrhenius law solely, the temperature sensitivity (Q10) of Vmax decreased with warming. However, the Q10 of Vmax/Km displayed a lower value in the cold but a higher value in warmer temperature, which confirmed microbial adaptation based on physiological theory, consequently encouraging its linking with the Arrhenius law. Therefore, Arrhenius linked with physiological theory could correct explanation of enzyme activities by warming. Considering the microbial adaptation to temperature, the present predicted warming-induced acceleration of soil organic matter decomposition might be overestimated in cold and underestimated in warm environments.

Keywords: Global warming, Soil enzyme activities, Temperature sensitivity, Catalytic efficiency, Physiological theory.

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