Response of the Intertidal Microbial Community Structure and Metabolic Profiles to Zinc Oxide Nanoparticle Exposure

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020 Mar 27;17(7):2253. doi: 10.3390/ijerph17072253.


The toxicity of nanomaterials to microorganisms is related to their dose and environmental factors. The aim of this study was to investigate the shifts in the microbial community structure and metabolic profiles and to evaluate the environmental factors in a laboratory scale intertidal wetland system exposed to zinc oxide nanoparticles (ZnO NPs). Microbial assemblages were determined using 16S rRNA high-throughput sequencing. Community-level physiological profiles were determined using Biolog-ECO technology. Results showed Proteobacteria was the predominant (42.6%-55.8%) phylum across all the sediments, followed by Bacteroidetes (18.9%-29.0%). The genera Azoarcus, Maribacter, and Thauera were most frequently detected. At the studied concentrations (40 mg·L-1, 80 mg·L-1, 120 mg·L-1), ZnO NPs had obvious impacts on the activity of Proteobacteria. Adverse effects were particularly evident in sulfur and nitrogen cycling bacteria such as Sulfitobacter, unidentified_Nitrospiraceae, Thauera, and Azoarcus. The alpha diversity index of microbial community did not reflect stronger biological toxicity in the groups with high NP concentrations (80 mg·L-1, 120 mg·L-1) than the group with low NP concentration (40 mg·L-1). The average well color development (AWCD) values of periodically submersed groups were higher than those of long-term submersed groups. The group with NP concentration (40 mg·L-1) had the lowest AWCD value; those of the groups with high NP concentrations (80 mg·L-1, 120 mg·L-1) were slightly lower than that of the control group. The beta diversity showed that tidal activity shaped the similar microbial community among the periodically submerged groups, as well as the long-term submerged groups. The groups with high DO concentrations had higher diversity of the microbial community, better metabolic ability, and stronger resistance to ZnO NPs than the groups with a low DO concentration.

Keywords: ZnO NPs; carbon metabolism; intertidal zone; microbial distribution; sediment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't