Authors Scales, B. S. ; Cable, R. N. ; Duhaime, M. B. ; Gerdts, G. ; Fischer, F. ; Fischer, D. ; Mothes, S. ; Hintzki, L. ; Moldaenke, L. ; Ruwe, M. ; Kalinowski, J. ; Kreikemeyer, B. ; Pedrotti, M.-L. ; Gorsky, G. ; Elineau, A. ; Labrenz, M. ; Oberbeckmann, S.
Title Cross-hemisphere study reveals geographically ubiquitous, plastic-specific bacteria emerging from the rare and unexplored biosphere
Date 09.06.2021
Number 59979
Abstract While it is now appreciated that the millions of tons of plastic pollution travelling through marine systems carry complex communities of microorganisms, it is still unknown to what extent these biofilm communities are specific to the plastic or selected by the surrounding ecosystem. To address this, we characterized and compared the microbial communities of microplastic particles, nonplastic (natural and wax) particles, and the surrounding waters from three marine ecosystems (the Baltic, Sargasso and Mediterranean seas) using high-throughput 16S rRNA gene sequencing. We found that biofilm communities on microplastic and nonplastic particles were highly similar to one another across this broad geographical range. The similar temperature and salinity profiles of the Sargasso and Mediterranean seas, compared to the Baltic Sea, were reflected in the biofilm communities. We identified plastic-specific operational taxonomic units (OTUs) that were not detected on nonplastic particles or in the surrounding waters. Twenty-six of the plastic-specific OTUs were geographically ubiquitous across all sampled locations. These geographically ubiquitous plastic-specific OTUs were mostly low-abundance members of their biofilm communities and often represented uncultured members of marine ecosystems. These results demonstrate the potential for plastics to be a reservoir of rare and understudied microbes, thus warranting further investigations into the dynamics and role of these microbes in marine ecosystems.
Publisher mSphere
Citation mSphere 6 (2021) e00851-20

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