Proteolytic activity under nitrogen or sulfur limitation

Gerald K. Sims, Michelle M. Wander

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Sand cultures were used to evaluate the effect of C, N, and S ratio on protein degradation by soil microorganisms. Sand was inoculated with soil and amended with defined nutrient media to produce limitation for C, N, or S. Limitation for N or S resulted in reduced biomass (total protein) and increased proteolytic activity as indicated by measurements of dye released from a commercial protease substrate (azocoll). Carbon limitation had little effect on proteolytic activity. As expected, utilization of carbon (glucose) was dependent upon the availability of N or S. Protein synthesis inhibitors (chloramphenicol and cycloheximide) suppressed proteolytic activity, suggesting a need for new gene expression in the response of organisms to N or S stress. Correlations of proteolytic activity and biomass among treatments revealed distinctly different relationships depending upon the availability of C, N, or S. The results of this experirnent support a role of proteolytic activity in response of microorganisms to N or S deprivation and suggest that protease activity in soil is more strongly influenced by regulatory signals than by standing biomass.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)217-221
Number of pages5
JournalApplied Soil Ecology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2002


  • Azocoll
  • Enzyme regulation
  • Nutrient cycling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Soil Science


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