12 August, 2019

Knowledge Exchange visit to Germany

Lucy Greenfield, a 3rd year STARS PhD student, reports on an International Knowledge Exchange visit.

I recently travelled to the University of Göttingen for a month to learn the technique of enzyme photography or zymography from Dr Bahar Razavi.

Enzymes are released into the soil by microorganisms to aid the breakdown of many soil compounds.  To determine where these enzymes are located in soil we can use zymography. The method involves adding an enzyme substrate with an attached fluorescence molecule to the soil surface. The enzyme in the soil then breaks the bond between the substrate and fluorescence molecule allowing the molecule to fluoresce. Under UV light, we can detect the amount of this fluorescence and relate it to the amount of enzyme activity occurring in the soil.

I am particularly interested in protease enzymes. Proteases breakdown proteins (the substrate) in soil to amino acids. Microorganisms use amino acids to obtain carbon and nitrogen for nutrition. The hotspots of protease activity are vital to understand what factors affect the rate of activity. An example of a hotspot is along the root surface. See if you can spot the root in the zymography image below using the photograph of the plant to help…

Protease activity of a barley plant.

Barley plant growing in soil with its roots exposed.

Lucy Greenfield – August 2019