A model of extracellular enzymes in free-living microbes: Which strategy pays off?

Sachia J Traving, Uffe Høgsbro Thygesen, Lasse Riemann, Colin Stedmon, A. M. Spormann (Editor)

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An initial modeling approach was applied to analyze how a single, nonmotile, free-living, heterotrophic bacterial cell may optimize the deployment of its extracellular enzymes. Free-living cells live in a dilute and complex substrate field, and to gain enough substrate, their extracellular enzymes must be utilized efficiently. The model revealed that surface-attached and free enzymes generate unique enzyme and substrate fields, and each deployment strategy has distinctive advantages. For a solitary cell, surface-attached enzymes are suggested to be the most cost-efficient strategy. This strategy entails potential substrates being reduced to very low concentrations. Free enzymes, on the other hand, generate a radically different substrate field, which suggests significant benefits for the strategy if free cells engage in social foraging or experience high substrate concentrations. Swimming has a slight positive effect for the attached-enzyme strategy, while the effect is negative for the free-enzyme strategy. The results of this study suggest that specific dissolved organic compounds in the ocean likely persist below a threshold concentration impervious to biological utilization. This could help explain the persistence and apparent refractory state of oceanic dissolved organic matter (DOM). Microbial extracellular enzyme strategies, therefore, have important implications for larger-scale processes, such as shaping the role of DOM in ocean carbon sequestration.
Original languageEnglish
Issue number21
Pages (from-to)7385-7393
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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