Abundance of microbes involved in nitrogen transformation in the rhizosphere of Leucanthemopsis alpina (L.) Heywood grown in soils from different sites of the Damma glacier forefield

Microb Ecol. 2010 Nov;60(4):762-70. doi: 10.1007/s00248-010-9695-5. Epub 2010 Jun 12.


Glacier forefields are an ideal playground to investigate the role of development stages of soils on the formation of plant-microbe interactions as within the last decades, many alpine glaciers retreated, whereby releasing and exposing parent material for soil development. Especially the status of macronutrients like nitrogen differs between soils of different development stages in these environments and may influence plant growth significantly. Thus, in this study, we reconstructed major parts of the nitrogen cycle in the rhizosphere soil/root system of Leucanthemopsis alpina (L.) HEYWOOD: as well as the corresponding bulk soil by quantifying functional genes of nitrogen fixation (nifH), nitrogen mineralisation (chiA, aprA), nitrification (amoA AOB, amoA AOA) and denitrification (nirS, nirK and nosZ) in a 10-year and a 120-year ice-free soil of the Damma glacier forefield. We linked the results to the ammonium and nitrate concentrations of the soils as well as to the nitrogen and carbon status of the plants. The experiment was performed in a greenhouse simulating the climatic conditions of the glacier forefield. Samples were taken after 7 and 13 weeks of plant growth. Highest nifH gene abundance in connection with lowest nitrogen content of L. alpina was observed in the 10-year soil after 7 weeks of plant growth, demonstrating the important role of associative nitrogen fixation for plant development in this soil. In contrast, in the 120-year soil copy numbers of genes involved in denitrification, mainly nosZ were increased after 13 weeks of plant growth, indicating an overall increased microbial activity status as well as higher concentrations of nitrate in this soil.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Asteraceae / metabolism
  • Asteraceae / microbiology*
  • Bacteria / enzymology
  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Bacteria / isolation & purification
  • Bacteria / metabolism*
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Biotransformation
  • Carbon / metabolism
  • Ice Cover / microbiology
  • Nitrogen / metabolism*
  • Nitrogen Cycle
  • Nitrogenase / genetics
  • Nitrogenase / metabolism
  • Plant Roots / metabolism
  • Plant Roots / microbiology
  • Rhizosphere*
  • Soil Microbiology*


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Carbon
  • Nitrogenase
  • Nitrogen