Environmental photoinactivation of extracellular phosphatases and the effects of dissolved organic matter

Elisabeth M.L. Janssen, Kristopher McNeill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Alkaline phosphatases are ubiquitous extracellular enzymes in aquatic systems and play a central role in the biogeochemical cycling of phosphorus. Yet, the photochemical stability of phosphatase and effects of natural organic matter (DOM) are not completely understood. We demonstrate that phosphatase activity in natural biofilm samples decreased during sunlight exposure similar to well-defined bacterial phosphatase solutions. Direct photoinactivation was slowed by more than 50% in the presence of redox-active dissolved organic matter (DOM, 10 mgC L-1) or a model antioxidant (esculetin, 50 μM), even after light screening effects had been accounted for. Thus, DOM can not only inhibit enzymes (in the dark) or sensitize photodegradation by producing photochemically produced reactive intermediates but can also significantly quench direct photoinactivation of phosphatase. Our data further suggest that direct photooxidation of tryptophan residues within the protein structure are significantly involved in the photoinactivation of phosphatase because a loss of tryptophan-like fluorescence paralleled photoinactivation kinetics and because DOM acted as an antioxidant toward photoinactivation, a phenomenon recently established for the photooxidation of freely dissolved tryptophan. Thus, photoinactivation of phosphatase can be significantly slowed in the presence of naturally occurring antioxidants like DOM. The mechanistic link between tryptophan photooxidation and inactivation of phosphatase may have applicability to other extracellular enzymes but remains to be established. (Figure Presented).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)889-896
Number of pages8
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 20 2015

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