Decrypting bacterial polyphenol metabolism in an anoxic wetland soil

Bridget B. McGivern, Malak M. Tfaily, Mikayla A. Borton, Suzanne M. Kosina, Rebecca A. Daly, Carrie D. Nicora, Samuel O. Purvine, Allison R. Wong, Mary S. Lipton, David W. Hoyt, Trent R. Northen, Ann E. Hagerman, Kelly C. Wrighton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Microorganisms play vital roles in modulating organic matter decomposition and nutrient cycling in soil ecosystems. The enzyme latch paradigm posits microbial degradation of polyphenols is hindered in anoxic peat leading to polyphenol accumulation, and consequently diminished microbial activity. This model assumes that polyphenols are microbially unavailable under anoxia, a supposition that has not been thoroughly investigated in any soil type. Here, we use anoxic soil reactors amended with and without a chemically defined polyphenol to test this hypothesis, employing metabolomics and genome-resolved metaproteomics to interrogate soil microbial polyphenol metabolism. Challenging the idea that polyphenols are not bioavailable under anoxia, we provide metabolite evidence that polyphenols are depolymerized, resulting in monomer accumulation, followed by the generation of small phenolic degradation products. Further, we show that soil microbiome function is maintained, and possibly enhanced, with polyphenol addition. In summary, this study provides chemical and enzymatic evidence that some soil microbiota can degrade polyphenols under anoxia and subvert the assumed polyphenol lock on soil microbial metabolism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2466
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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