Chitin amendment is a promising soil management strategy that may enhance the suppressiveness of soil toward plant pathogens. However, we understand very little of the effects of added chitin, including the putative successions that take place in the degradative process. We performed an experiment in moderately acid soil in which the level of chitin, next to the pH, was altered. Examination of chitinase activities revealed fast responses to the added crude chitin, with peaks of enzymatic activity occurring on day 7. PCR-denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE)-based analyses of 16S rRNA and chiA genes showed structural changes of the phylogenetically and functionally based bacterial communities following chitin addition and pH alteration. Pyrosequencing analysis indicated (i) that the diversity of chiA gene types in soil is enormous and (i) that different chiA gene types are selected by the addition of chitin at different prevailing soil pH values. Interestingly, a major role of Gram-negative bacteria versus a minor one of Actinobacteria in the immediate response to the added chitin (based on 16S rRNA gene abundance and chiA gene types) was indicated. The results of this study enhance our understanding of the response of the soil bacterial communities to chitin and are of use for both the understanding of soil suppressiveness and the possible mining of soil for novel enzymes.
Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 2013, Vol 79, Issue 1, p. 263-272