Microbial Extracellular Enzyme Activity: A New Key Parameter in Aquatic Ecology

  • Hans-Georg Hoppe
Part of the Brock/Springer Series in Contemporary Bioscience book series (BROCK/SPRINGER)


Three general pathways of organic matter degradation exist in natural aquatic environments. These are based on predation, particle feeding, and dissolved organic matter (DOM) uptake. Bacteria are involved in the latter two in that they are able to hydrolyze nonliving particles thereby competing with particle feeders, and take up small organic molecules, which is their exclusive domain. Particle hydrolysis is mediated by extracellular enzymes in the intestines of animals and by the enzymatic activity of attached bacteria. Therefore, successful competition for organic matter among tropic levels is also a question of extra-cellular enzymatic efficiencies. The decomposition of dissolved organic macromolecules is mediated mainly by the enzymes of free-living bacteria, which subsequently incorporate the small molecules resulting from enzymatic hydrolysis. Therefore, bacterial activity has a strong influence on the concentration and speciation of dissolved organic molecules in the water. A major fraction of the DOM-pool in the water can be expected to consist of dissolved macromolecules since extracellular hydrolysis is a relatively slow process in comparison to the uptake of low-molecular-weight organic matter (LMWOM). The efficiency of animals feeding on particles may vary considerably, depending on various factors. Microbial hydrolysis of particles will depend greatly on the chemical composition and the size of the particles. Thus competition for organic particles between animals and microbes will be determined on the one hand, by the slow but continuous microbial component and, on the other hand, by pulse-feeding activities of animals (Joint and Morris, 1982). In detail, it has been pointed out that efficiencies of microbial decomposition of fast-sinking large particles and nonsinking small particles may be different (Cho and Azam, 1988; Karl et al., 1988).


Dissolve Organic Matter Euphotic Zone Surrounding Water Environmental Microbiology Marine Ecology Progress Series 
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© Springer-Verlag New York Inc. 1991

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  • Hans-Georg Hoppe

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