Free amino sugar reactions in soil in relation to soil carbon and nitrogen cycling

Paula Roberts, Roland Bol, Davey L. Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Citations (Scopus)


Amino sugars represent a major constituent of microbial cell walls and hydrolyzed soil organic matter. Despite their potential importance in soil nitrogen cycling, comparatively little is known about their dynamics in soil. The aim of this study was therefore to quantify the behaviour of glucosamine in two contrasting grassland soil profiles. Our results show that both free amino sugars and amino acids represented only a small proportion of dissolved organic N and C pool in soil. Based upon our findings we hypothesize that the low concentrations of free amino sugars found in soils is due to rapid removal from the soil solution rather than slow rates of production. Further, we showed that glucosamine removal from solution was a predominantly biotic process and that its half-life in soil solution ranged from 1 to 3 h. The rates of turnover were similar to those of glucose at low substrate concentrations, however, at higher glucosamine concentrations its microbial use was much less than for glucose. We hypothesized that this was due to the lack of expression of a low affinity transport systems in the microbial community. Glucosamine was only weakly sorbed to the soil's solid phase (Kd=6.4±1.0) and our results suggest that this did not limit its bioavailability in soil. Here we showed that glucosamine addition to soil resulted in rapid N mineralization and subsequent NO3- production. In contrast to some previous reports, our results suggest that free amino sugars turn over rapidly in soil and provide a suitable substrate for both microbial respiration and new biomass formation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3081-3092
Number of pages12
JournalSoil Biology and Biochemistry
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2007
Externally publishedYes


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