Microbial Key Players Involved in P Turnover Differ in Artificial Soil Mixtures Depending on Clay Mineral Composition

Irina Tanuwidjaja, Cordula Vogel, Geertje J. Pronk, Anne Schöler, Susanne Kublik, Gisle Alberg Vestergaard, Ingrid Kögel-Knabner, Mirna Mrkonjic Fuka, Michael Schloter, Stefanie Schulz*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Nutrient turnover in soils is strongly driven by soil properties, including clay mineral composition. One main nutrient is phosphorus (P), which is known to be easily immobilized in soil. Therefore, the specific surface characteristics of clay minerals might substantially influence P availability in soil and thus the microbial strategies for accessing P pools. We used a metagenomic approach to analyze the microbial potential to access P after 842 days of incubation in artificial soils with a clay mineral composition of either non-expandable illite (IL) or expandable montmorillonite (MT), which differ in their surface characteristics like soil surface area and surface charge. Our data indicate that microorganisms of the two soils developed different strategies to overcome P depletion, resulting in similar total P concentrations. Genes predicted to encode inorganic pyrophosphatase (ppa), exopolyphosphatase (ppx), and the pstSCAB transport system were higher in MT, suggesting effective P uptake and the use of internal poly-P stores. Genes predicted to encode enzymes involved in organic P turnover like alkaline phosphatases (phoA, phoD) and glycerophosphoryl diester phosphodiesterase were detected in both soils in comparable numbers. In addition, Po concentrations did not differ significantly. Most identified genes were assigned to microbial lineages generally abundant in agricultural fields, but some were assigned to lineages known to include oligotrophic specialists, such as Bacillaceae and Microchaetaceae.
Original languageEnglish
JournalMicrobial Ecology
Pages (from-to)897–907
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Artificial soils
  • Bacterial P turnover
  • Metagenomics
  • Exopolyphosphatase
  • Inorganic pyrophosphatase


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