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Copper affects composition and functioning of microbial communities in marine biofilms at environmentally relevant concentrations

Journal article
Authors Natàlia Corcoll
Yang Jianghua
Thomas Backhaus
Xiaowei Zhang
K. Martin Eriksson
Published in Frontiers in Microbiology
Volume 9
ISSN 1664-302X
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences
Language en
Keywords metabarcoding, 16S / 18S ribosomal RNA gene analysis, Periphyhton, Amplicon sequencing, Metals
Subject categories Earth and Related Environmental Sciences, Ecology, Botany, Microbiology, Environmental Sciences


Copper (Cu) pollution in coastal areas is a worldwide threat for aquatic communities. This study aims to demonstrate the usefulness of the DNA metabarcoding analysis in order to describe the ecotoxicological effect of Cu at environmental concentrations on marine periphyton. Additionally, the study investigates if Cu-induced changes in community structure co-occurs with changes in community functioning (i.e. photosynthesis and community tolerance to Cu). Periphyton was exposed for 18 days to five Cu concentrations, between 0.01 and 10 μM, in a semi-static test. Diversity and community structure of prokaryotic and eukaryotic organisms were assessed by 16S and 18S amplicon sequencing, respectively. Community function was studied as impacts on algal biomass and photosynthetic activity. Additionally, we studied Pollution-Induced Community Tolerance (PICT) using photosynthesis as the endpoint. Sequencing results detected an average of 9504 and 1242 OTUs for 16S and 18S, respectively, reflecting the high biodiversity of marine periphytic biofilms. Eukaryotes represent the most Cu-sensitive kingdom, where effects were seen already at concentrations as low as 0.01 µM. The structure of the prokaryotic part of the community was impacted at slightly higher concentrations (0.06 µM), which is still in the range of the Cu concentrations observed in the area (0.08 µM). The current environmental quality standard for Cu of 0.07 µM therefore does not seem to be sufficiently protective for periphyton. Cu exposure resulted in a more Cu-tolerant community, which was accompanied by a reduced total algal biomass, increased relative abundance of diatoms and a reduction of photosynthetic activity. Cu exposure changed the network of associations between taxa in the communities. A total of 23 taxa, including taxa within Proteobacteria, Bacteroidetes, Stramenopiles and Hacrobia, were identified as being particularly sensitive to Cu. DNA metabarcoding is presented as a sensitive tool for community-level ecotoxicological studies that allows to observe impacts simultaneously on a multitude of pro- and eukaryotic taxa, and therefore to identify particularly sensitive, non-cultivable taxa.

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Utskriftsdatum: 2020-05-31