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Measurement of Volatile Compounds for Real-Time Analysis of Soil Microbial Metabolic Response to Simulated Snowmelt.

  • Author(s): Kim, Junhyeong
  • Goldstein, Allen H
  • Chakraborty, Romy
  • Jardine, Kolby
  • Weber, Robert
  • Sorensen, Patrick O
  • Wang, Shi
  • Faybishenko, Boris
  • Misztal, Pawel K
  • Brodie, Eoin L
  • et al.
Abstract

Snowmelt dynamics are a significant determinant of microbial metabolism in soil and regulate global biogeochemical cycles of carbon and nutrients by creating seasonal variations in soil redox and nutrient pools. With an increasing concern that climate change accelerates both snowmelt timing and rate, obtaining an accurate characterization of microbial response to snowmelt is important for understanding biogeochemical cycles intertwined with soil. However, observing microbial metabolism and its dynamics non-destructively remains a major challenge for systems such as soil. Microbial volatile compounds (mVCs) emitted from soil represent information-dense signatures and when assayed non-destructively using state-of-the-art instrumentation such as Proton Transfer Reaction-Time of Flight-Mass Spectrometry (PTR-TOF-MS) provide time resolved insights into the metabolism of active microbiomes. In this study, we used PTR-TOF-MS to investigate the metabolic trajectory of microbiomes from a subalpine forest soil, and their response to a simulated wet-up event akin to snowmelt. Using an information theory approach based on the partitioning of mutual information, we identified mVC metabolite pairs with robust interactions, including those that were non-linear and with time lags. The biological context for these mVC interactions was evaluated by projecting the connections onto the Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes (KEGG) network of known metabolic pathways. Simulated snowmelt resulted in a rapid increase in the production of trimethylamine (TMA) suggesting that anaerobic degradation of quaternary amine osmo/cryoprotectants, such as glycine betaine, may be important contributors to this resource pulse. Unique and synergistic connections between intermediates of methylotrophic pathways such as dimethylamine, formaldehyde and methanol were observed upon wet-up and indicate that the initial pulse of TMA was likely transformed into these intermediates by methylotrophs. Increases in ammonia oxidation signatures (transformation of hydroxylamine to nitrite) were observed in parallel, and while the relative role of nitrifiers or methylotrophs cannot be confirmed, the inferred connection to TMA oxidation suggests either a direct or indirect coupling between these processes. Overall, it appears that such mVC time-series from PTR-TOF-MS combined with causal inference represents an attractive approach to non-destructively observe soil microbial metabolism and its response to environmental perturbation.

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