Perturbation and restoration of the fathead minnow gut microbiome after low-level triclosan exposure

Microbiome. 2015 Mar 3;3:6. doi: 10.1186/s40168-015-0069-6. eCollection 2015.


Background: Triclosan is a widely used antimicrobial compound and emerging environmental contaminant. Although the role of the gut microbiome in health and disease is increasingly well established, the interaction between environmental contaminants and host microbiome is largely unexplored, with unknown consequences for host health. This study examined the effects of low, environmentally relevant levels of triclosan exposure on the fish gut microbiome. Developing fathead minnows (Pimephales promelas) were exposed to two low levels of triclosan over a 7-day exposure. Fish gastrointestinal tracts from exposed and control fish were harvested at four time points: immediately preceding and following the 7-day exposure and after 1 and 2 weeks of depuration.

Results: A total of 103 fish gut bacterial communities were characterized by high-throughput sequencing and analysis of the V3-V4 region of the 16S rRNA gene. By measures of both alpha and beta diversity, gut microbial communities were significantly differentiated by exposure history immediately following triclosan exposure. After 2 weeks of depuration, these differences disappear. Independent of exposure history, communities were also significantly structured by time. This first detailed census of the fathead minnow gut microbiome shows a bacterial community that is similar in composition to those of zebrafish and other freshwater fish. Among the triclosan-resilient members of this host-associated community are taxa associated with denitrification in wastewater treatment, taxa potentially able to degrade triclosan, and taxa from an unstudied host-associated candidate division.

Conclusions: The fathead minnow gut microbiome is rapidly and significantly altered by exposure to low, environmentally relevant levels of triclosan, yet largely recovers from this short-term perturbation over an equivalently brief time span. These results suggest that even low-level environmental exposure to a common antimicrobial compound can induce significant short-term changes to the gut microbiome, followed by restoration, demonstrating both the sensitivity and resilience of the gut flora to challenges by environmental toxicants. This short-term disruption in a developing organism may have important long-term consequences for host health. The identification of multiple taxa not often reported in the fish gut suggests that microbial nitrogen metabolism in the fish gut may be more complex than previously appreciated.

Keywords: 16S; Denitrification; Fathead minnow; Gut microbiome; Triclosan.