Biological Systems Engineering


Date of this Version



Front. Microbiol. 8:1866


Copyright © 2017 Song, Thomas, Stegen, Li, Liu, Song, Chen, Fredrickson, Zachara and Scheibe.

Open access

doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2017.01866


In a recent study of denitrification dynamics in hyporheic zone sediments, we observed a significant time lag (up to several days) in enzymatic response to the changes in substrate concentration. To explore an underlying mechanism and understand the interactive dynamics between enzymes and nutrients, we developed a trait-based model that associates a community’s traits with functional enzymes, instead of typically used species guilds (or functional guilds). This enzyme-based formulation allows to collectively describe biogeochemical functions of microbial communities without directly parameterizing the dynamics of species guilds, therefore being scalable to complex communities. As a key component of modeling, we accounted for microbial regulation occurring through transcriptional and translational processes, the dynamics of which was parameterized based on the temporal profiles of enzyme concentrations measured using a new signature peptide-based method. The simulation results using the resulting model showed several days of a time lag in enzymatic responses as observed in experiments. Further, the model showed that the delayed enzymatic reactions could be primarily controlled by transcriptional responses and that the dynamics of transcripts and enzymes are closely correlated. The developed model can serve as a useful tool for predicting biogeochemical processes in natural environments, either independently or through integration with hydrologic flow simulators.