Using a pulse chase 13CO2 plant labeling experiment we compared the flow of plant carbon into macromolecular fractions of rhizosphere soil microorganisms. Time dependent 13C dilution patterns in microbial cellular fractions were used to calculate their turnover time. The turnover times of microbial biomolecules were found to vary: microbial RNA (19 h) and DNA (30 h) turned over fastest followed by chloroform fumigation extraction-derived soluble cell lysis products (14 days), while phospholipid fatty acids (PLFAs) had the slowest turnover (42 days). PLFA/NLFA 13C analyses suggest that both mutualistic arbuscular mycorrhizal and saprophytic fungi are dominant in initial plant carbon uptake. In contrast, high initial 13C enrichment in RNA hints at bacterial importance in initial C uptake due to the dominance of bacterial derived RNA in total extracts of soil RNA. To explain this discrepancy, we observed low renewal rate of bacterial lipids, which may therefore bias lipid fatty acid based interpretations of the role of bacteria in soil microbial food webs. Based on our findings, we question current assumptions regarding plant-microbe carbon flux and suggest that the rhizosphere bacterial contribution to plant assimilate uptake could be higher. This highlights the need for more detailed quantitative investigations with nucleic acid biomarkers to further validate these findings.
- C tracer experiment