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Nutrient (C, N and P) enrichment induces significant changes in the soil metabolite profile and microbial carbon partitioning

Brown, R.W., Chadwick, D.R., Bending, G.D., Collins, C.D., Whelton, H.L., Daulton, E., Covington, J.A., Bull, I.D. and Jones, D.L. (2022) Nutrient (C, N and P) enrichment induces significant changes in the soil metabolite profile and microbial carbon partitioning. Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 172 . Art. 108779.

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The cycling of soil organic matter (SOM) and carbon (C) within the soil is governed by the presence of key macronutrients, particularly nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P). The relative ratio of these nutrients has a direct effect on the potential rates of microbial growth and nutrient processing in soil and thus is fundamental to ecosystem functioning. However, the effect of changing soil nutrient stoichiometry on the small organic molecule (i.e., metabolite) composition and cycling by the microbial community remains poorly understood. Here, we aimed to disentangle the effect of stoichiometrically balanced nutrient addition on the soil metabolomic profile and apparent microbial carbon use efficiency (CUE) by adding a labile C source (glucose) in combination with N and/or P. After incorporation of the added glucose into the microbial biomass (48 h), metabolite profiling was undertaken by ultra-performance liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (UPLC-MS/MS). 494 metabolites were identified across all treatments mainly consisting of lipids (n = 199), amino acids (n = 118) and carbohydrates (n = 43), >97% of which showed significant changes in concentration between at least one treatment. Overall, glucose-C addition generally increased the synthesis of other carbohydrates in soil, while addition of C and N together increased peptide synthesis, indicative of protein formation and turnover. The combination of C and P significantly increased the number of fatty acids synthesised. There was no significant change in the PLFA-derived microbial community structure or microbial biomass following C, N and P addition. Further, N addition led to an increase in glucose-C partitioning into anabolic processes (i.e., increased CUE), suggesting the microbial community was N, but not P limited. Based on the metabolomic profiles observed here, we conclude that inorganic nutrient enrichment causes substantial shifts in both primary and secondary metabolism within the microbial community, leading to changes in resource flow and thus soil functioning, however, the microbial community illustrated significant metabolic flexibility.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Centre for Sustainable Farming Systems
Publisher: Elsevier BV
Copyright: © 2022 The Authors.
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