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  1. Veach, Allison (Ed.)
    ABSTRACT Heavy metals (HMs) are known to modify bacterial communities both in the laboratory and in situ . Consequently, soils in HM-contaminated sites such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Superfund sites are predicted to have altered ecosystem functioning, with potential ramifications for the health of organisms, including humans, that live nearby. Further, several studies have shown that heavy metal-resistant (HMR) bacteria often also display antimicrobial resistance (AMR), and therefore HM-contaminated soils could potentially act as reservoirs that could disseminate AMR genes into human-associated pathogenic bacteria. To explore this possibility, topsoil samples were collected from six public locations in the zip code 35207 (the home of the North Birmingham 35th Avenue Superfund Site) and in six public areas in the neighboring zip code, 35214. 35027 soils had significantly elevated levels of the HMs As, Mn, Pb, and Zn, and sequencing of the V4 region of the bacterial 16S rRNA gene revealed that elevated HM concentrations correlated with reduced microbial diversity and altered community structure. While there was no difference between zip codes in the proportion of total culturable HMR bacteria, bacterial isolates with HMR almost always also exhibited AMR. Metagenomes inferred using PICRUSt2 also predicted significantly higher mean relativemore »frequencies in 35207 for several AMR genes related to both specific and broad-spectrum AMR phenotypes. Together, these results support the hypothesis that chronic HM pollution alters the soil bacterial community structure in ecologically meaningful ways and may also select for bacteria with increased potential to contribute to AMR in human disease. IMPORTANCE Heavy metals cross-select for antimicrobial resistance in laboratory experiments, but few studies have documented this effect in polluted soils. Moreover, despite decades of awareness of heavy metal contamination at the EPA Superfund site in North Birmingham, Alabama, this is the first analysis of the impact of this pollution on the soil microbiome. Specifically, this work advances the understanding of the relationship between heavy metals, microbial diversity, and patterns of antibiotic resistance in North Birmingham soils. Our results suggest that polluted soils carry a risk of increased exposure to antibiotic-resistant infections in addition to the direct health consequences of heavy metals. Our work provides important information relevant to both political and scientific efforts to advance environmental justice for the communities that call Superfund neighborhoods home.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available April 1, 2024
  2. Abstract

    Many microbial photoautotrophs depend on heterotrophic bacteria for accomplishing essential functions. Environmental changes, however, could alter or eliminate such interactions. We investigated the effects of changing pCO2on gene transcription in co-cultures of 3 strains of picocyanobacteria (Synechococcusstrains CC9311 and WH8102 andProchlorococcusstrain MIT9312) paired with the ‘helper’ bacteriumAlteromonas macleodiiEZ55. Co-culture with cyanobacteria resulted in a much higher number of up- and down-regulated genes in EZ55 than pCO2by itself. Pathway analysis revealed significantly different transcription of genes involved in carbohydrate metabolism, stress response, and chemotaxis, with different patterns of up- or down-regulation in co-culture with different cyanobacterial strains. Gene transcription patterns of organic and inorganic nutrient transporter and catabolism genes in EZ55 suggested resources available in the culture media were altered under elevated (800 ppm) pCO2conditions. Altogether, changing transcription patterns were consistent with the possibility that the composition of cyanobacterial excretions changed under the two pCO2regimes, causing extensive ecophysiological changes in both members of the co-cultures. Additionally, significant downregulation of oxidative stress genes in MIT9312/EZ55 cocultures at 800 ppm pCO2were consistent with a link between the predicted reduced availability of photorespiratory byproducts (i.e., glycolate/2PG) under this condition and observed reductions in internal oxidative stress loads for EZ55, providing a possible explanationmore »for the previously observed lack of “help” provided by EZ55 to MIT9312 under elevated pCO2. If similar broad alterations in microbial ecophysiology occur in the ocean as atmospheric pCO2increases, they could lead to substantially altered ecosystem functioning and community composition.

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  3. Gralnick, Jeffrey A. (Ed.)
    ABSTRACT Microalgal cultures are often maintained in xenic conditions, i.e., with associated bacteria, and many studies indicate that these communities both are complex and have significant impacts on the physiology of the target photoautotroph. Here, we investigated the structure and stability of microbiomes associated with a diverse sampling of diatoms during long-term maintenance in serial batch culture. We found that, counter to our initial expectation, evenness diversity increased with time since cultivation, driven by a decrease in dominance by the most abundant taxa in each culture. We also found that the site from which and time at which a culture was initially collected had a stronger impact on microbiome structure than the diatom species; however, some bacterial taxa were commonly present in most cultures despite having widely geographically separated collection sites. Our results support the conclusion that stochastic initial conditions (i.e., the local microbial community at the collection site) are important for the long-term structure of these microbiomes, but deterministic forces such as negative frequency dependence and natural selection exerted by the diatom are also at work. IMPORTANCE Natural microbial communities are extremely complex, with many more species coexisting in the same place than there are different resources to supportmore »them. Understanding the forces that allow this high level of diversity has been a central focus of ecological and evolutionary theory for many decades. Here, we used stock cultures of diatoms, which were maintained for years in continuous growth alongside populations of bacteria, as proxies for natural communities. We show that the bacterial communities remained relatively stable for years, and there is evidence that ecological forces worked to stabilize coexistence instead of favoring competition and exclusion. We also show evidence that, despite some important regional differences in bacterial communities, there was a globally present core microbiome potentially selected for in these diatom cultures. Understanding interactions between bacteria and diatoms is important both for basic ecological science and for practical science, such as industrial biofuel production.« less