Earthworms and cadmium - Heavy metal resistant gut bacteria as indicators for heavy metal pollution in soils?

Šrut, M.; Menke, S.; Höckner, M.; Sommer, S.

Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety 171: 843-853


ISSN/ISBN: 1090-2414
PMID: 30660978
DOI: 10.1016/j.ecoenv.2018.12.102
Accession: 066105271

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Preservation of the soil resources stability is of high importance for ecosystems, particularly in the current era of environmental change, which presents a severe pollution burden (e.g. by heavy metals) to soil fauna. Gut microbiomes are becoming recognized as important players in organism health, with comprehension of their perturbations in the polluted environment offering new insights into the nature and extent of heavy metal effects on the health of soil biota. Our aim was to investigate the effect of environmentally relevant heavy metal concentrations of cadmium (Cd) on the earthworm (Lumbricus terrestris) gut microbiota. Our results revealed that Cd exposure led to perturbations of earthworm gut microbiota with an increase in bacteria previously described as heavy metal resistant or able to bind heavy metals, revealing the potential of the earthworm-gut microbiota system in overcoming human-caused heavy metal pollution. Furthermore, an 'indicator species analysis' linked the bacterial genera Paenibacillus, Flavobacterium and Pseudomonas, with Cd treatment, suggesting these bacterial taxa as biomarkers of exposure in earthworms inhabiting Cd-stressed soils. The results of this study help to understand the impact of anthropogenic disturbance on soil fauna health and will have implications for environmental monitoring and protection of soil resources.