Chemical fertilizers promote dissemination of ARGs in maize rhizosphere: An overlooked risk revealed after 37-year traditional agriculture practice

Sci Total Environ. 2024 Jun 4:941:173737. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2024.173737. Online ahead of print.


Bacterial communities in soil and rhizosphere maintain a large collection of antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs). However, few of these ARGs and antibiotic resistant bacteria (ARB) are well-characterized under traditional farming practices. Here we compared the ARG profiles of maize rhizosphere and their bulk soils using metagenomic analysis to identify the ARG dissemination and explored the potential impact of chemical fertilization on ARB. Results showed a relatively lower abundance but higher diversity of ARGs under fertilization than straw-return. Moreover, the abundance and diversity of MGEs were significantly promoted by chemical fertilizer inputs in the rhizosphere compared to bulk soil. Machine learning and bipartite networks identified three bacterial genera (Pseudomonas, Bacillus and Streptomyces) as biomarkers for ARG accumulation. Thus we cultured 509 isolates belonging to these three genera from the rhizosphere and tested their antimicrobial susceptibility, and found that multi-resistance was frequently observed among Pseudomonas isolates. Assembly-based tracking explained that ARGs and four class I integrons (LR134330, LS998783, CP065848, LT883143) were co-occurred among contigs from Pseudomonas sp. Chemical fertilizers may shape the resistomes of maize rhizosphere, highlighting that rhizosphere carried multidrug-resistant Pseudomonas isolates, which may pose a risk to animal and human health. This study adds knowledge of long-term chemical fertilization on ARG dissemination in farmland systems and provides information for decision-making in agricultural production and monitoring.

Keywords: Antibiotic resistance genes; Contigs binning; Long-term chemical fertilization; Straw return; bacteria isolation.