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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2014 Jul;80(14):4460-8. doi: 10.1128/AEM.01224-14. Epub 2014 May 16.

Atmospheric N deposition increases bacterial laccase-like multicopper oxidases: implications for organic matter decay.

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School of Natural Resources & Environment, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA
School of Natural Resources & Environment, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA Department of Ecology and Evolution, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA.


Anthropogenic release of biologically available nitrogen (N) has increased dramatically over the last 150 years, which can alter the processes controlling carbon (C) storage in terrestrial ecosystems. In a northern hardwood forest ecosystem located in Michigan in the United States, nearly 20 years of experimentally increased atmospheric N deposition has reduced forest floor decay and increased soil C storage. This change occurred concomitantly with compositional changes in Basidiomycete fungi and in Actinobacteria, as well as the downregulation of fungal lignocelluloytic genes. Recently, laccase-like multicopper oxidases (LMCOs) have been discovered among bacteria which can oxidize β-O-4 linkages in phenolic compounds (e.g., lignin and humic compounds), resulting in the production of dissolved organic carbon (DOC). Here, we examined how nearly 2 decades of experimental N deposition has affected the abundance and composition of saprotrophic bacteria possessing LMCO genes. In our experiment, LMCO genes were more abundant in the forest floor under experimental N deposition whereas the abundances of bacteria and fungi were unchanged. Experimental N deposition also led to less-diverse, significantly altered bacterial and LMCO gene assemblages, with taxa implicated in organic matter decay (i.e., Actinobacteria, Proteobacteria) accounting for the majority of compositional changes. These results suggest that experimental N deposition favors bacteria in the forest floor that harbor the LMCO gene and represents a plausible mechanism by which anthropogenic N deposition has reduced decomposition, increased soil C storage, and accelerated phenolic DOC production in our field experiment. Our observations suggest that future rates of atmospheric N deposition could fundamentally alter the physiological potential of soil microbial communities.

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