Soil microorganisms regulate extracellular enzyme production to maximize their growth rate

Salvatore Calabrese*, Binayak P. Mohanty, Ashish A. Malik

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Soil carbon cycling and ecosystem functioning can strongly depend on how microbial communities regulate their metabolism and adapt to changing environmental conditions to improve their fitness. Investing in extracellular enzymes is an important strategy for the acquisition of resources, but the principle behind the trade-offs between enzyme production and growth is not entirely clear. Here we show that the enzyme production rate per unit biomass may be regulated in order to maximize the biomass specific growth rate. Based on this optimality hypothesis, we derive mathematical expressions for the biomass specific enzyme production rate and the microbial carbon use efficiency, and verify them with experimental observations. As a result of this analysis, we also find that the optimal enzyme production rate decays hyperbolically with the soil organic carbon content. We then show that integrating the optimal extracellular enzyme production into soil microbial carbon models may change considerably soil carbon projections under global warming, underscoring the need to improve parameterization of microbial processes.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages10
Early online date14 Feb 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 14 Feb 2022


  • Exoenzymes production
  • Global warming
  • Microbial traits
  • Soil carbon


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