Biology and Fertility of Soils

, Volume 54, Issue 5, pp 559–568 | Cite as

Amino sugars as specific indices for fungal and bacterial residues in soil

  • Rainer Georg JoergensenEmail author
Position and Opinion Paper


Amino sugars are important indices for the contribution of soil microorganisms to soil organic matter. Consequently, the past decade has seen a great increase in the number of studies measuring amino sugars. However, some uncertainties remain in the interpretation of amino sugar data. The objective of the current opinion paper is to summarize current knowledge on amino sugars in soils, to give some advice for future research objectives, and to make a plea for the correct use of information. The study gives an overview on the origin of muramic acid (MurN), glucosamine (GlcN), galactosamine (GalN), and mannosamine (ManN). Information is also provided on measuring total amino sugars in soil but also on compound-specific δ13C and δ15N determination. Special attention is given to the turnover of microbial cell-wall residues, to the interpretation of the GlcN/GalN ratio, and to the reasons for converting fungal GlcN and MurN to microbial residue C. There is no evidence to suggest that the turnover of fungal residues generally differs from that of bacterial residues. On average, MurN contributes 7% to total amino sugars in soil, GlcN 60%, GalN 30%, and ManN 4%. MurN is highly specific for bacteria, GlcN for fungi if corrected for the contribution of bacterial GlcN, whereas GalN and ManN are unspecific microbial markers.


Microbial residues Microbial biomass Fungi Bacteria Cell walls EPS 


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© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Soil Biology and Plant NutritionUniversity of KasselWitzenhausenGermany

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