Author(s): T. Sherene
Enzymes are catalytic substances that without undergoing permanent alteration cause chemical reactions to proceed as faster rate. Soil enzymes play key biochemical functions in the overall process of organic matter decomposition in the soil system. They are important in catalyzing several important reactions necessary for the life processes of micro-organisms in soils, stabilization of soil structure, and the decomposition of organic wastes, organic matter formation and nutrient cycling. Soil enzymes regulate the functioning of the ecosystem and play key biochemical functions in the overall process of organic matter transformation and nutrient cycling in the soil system. The overall enzyme activity in soil consists of various intracellular and extracellular enzymes that originate from microorganisms (e.g., bacteria, fungi) or from plants and animals. These enzymes may include amylase, arylsulphatases, glycosidase, cellulose, chitins, dehydrogenate, phosphates, protease and urease. Ester sulfates are considered to be the most labile form of soil organic S, they are unavailable to plants and must be hydrolyzed to inorganic SO4 2- before plant uptakes. Arylsulfatase is involved by cleaving the O_S bond and is believed to make a major contribution to the mineralization of ester sulfate in soils. Amylase is a starch hydrolyzing enzyme. It is known to be constituted by α-amylase and β amylase that plays a significant role in the breakdown of starch. Research evidence suggests that several other enzymes are involved in the hydrolysis of starch, but of major importance are α-amylase which converts starch like substrates to glucose and/or oligosaccharides and β-amylase, which converts starch to maltose. β-glucosidase is one such enzyme, being involved in the enzymatic degradation of cellulose, which is the main component of plant polysaccharides. Phosphatases are a broad group of enzymes that are capable of catalysing hydrolysis of esters and anhydrides of phosphoric acid.
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