Table of Contents
ISRN Soil Science
Volume 2013 (2013), Article ID 803150, 12 pages
Research Article

The Variations in the Soil Enzyme Activity, Protein Expression, Microbial Biomass, and Community Structure of Soil Contaminated by Heavy Metals

1Institute of Environmental Science and Technology, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, Zhejiang 310058, China
2College of Materials and Environmental Engineering, Hangzhou Dianzi University, Hangzhou, Zhejiang 310018, China

Received 20 October 2013; Accepted 11 November 2013

Academic Editors: W. Peijnenburg, D. G. Strawn, and J. Thioulouse

Copyright © 2013 Xi Zhang et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Heavy metals have adverse effects on soil ecology. Given the toxicity of heavy metals, there is an urgent need to select an appropriate indicator that will aid in monitoring their biological effects on soil ecosystems. By combining different monitoring techniques for various aspects of microbiology, the effects of heavy metals on soil microorganisms near a smelter were studied. Our goal was to determine whether proteins could be a proper indicator for soil pollution. This study demonstrated that the activities of acid phosphatase and dehydrogenase, as well as the levels of microbial biomass carbon and proteins, were negatively affected by heavy metals. In addition, significantly negative correlations were observed between these microbial indicators and heavy metals. Denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis analysis was used in this study to demonstrate that heavy metals also have a significantly negative effect on soil microbial diversity and community structure. The soil protein expression was similar across different soils, but a large quantity of presumably low molecular weight protein was observed only in contaminated soil. Based on this research, we determined that the soil protein concentration was more sensitive to heavy metals than acid phosphatase, dehydrogenase, or microbial biomass carbon because it was more dramatically decreased in the contaminated soils. Therefore, we concluded that the soil protein level has great potential to be a sensitive indicator of soil contamination. Further research is essential, particularly to identify the low molecular weight protein that only appears in contaminated soil, so that further insight can be gained into the responses of microbes to heavy metals.