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Volume 271, 2021, 129511

Intestinal response characteristic and potential microbial dysbiosis in digestive tract of Bufo gargarizans after exposure to cadmium and lead, alone or combined

Rui Zhenga, Pengju Wangd, Baoping Caoa, Minyao Wua, Xinyi Lia, Hongyuan Wanga, Lihong Chaib,c

College of Life Science, Shaanxi Normal University, Xi’an, 710119, China.


The gastrointestinal tract is the largest immune organ in the body and meanwhile, accommodates a large number of microorganisms. Heavy metals could disturb the intestinal homeostasis and change the gut microbial composition. However, the information regarding the links between dysbiosis of gut microbiota and imbalance of host intestinal homeostasis induced by the mixture of heavy metals is insufficient. The present study investigates the effects of Cd/Pb, both single and combination exposure, on the growth performance, intestinal histology, digestive enzymes activity, oxidative stress and immune parameters, and intestinal microbiota in Bufo gargarizans tadpoles. Our results revealed that co-exposure of Cd–Pb induced more severe impacts not only on the host, but the intestinal microbiota. On the one hand, co-exposure of Cd–Pb significantly induced growth retardation, intestinal histological injury, decreased activities of digestive enzymes. On the other hand, Cd and Pb exposure, especially in mixed form, changed the diversity and richness, structure of microbiota. Also, the intestinal microbial composition was altered by Cd/Pb exposure (alone and combination) both at the different levels. Proteobacteria, act as front-line responder, was significantly increased in tadpoles under the exposure of metals. Finally, the functional prediction revealed that the disorders of metabolism and immune responses of intestinal microbiota was increased in tadpoles exposed to Cd/Pb (especially the mixture of Cd and Pb). Our research complements the understanding of links between changes in host fitness loss and intestinal microbiota and will add a new dimension of knowledge to the ecological risks of mixed heavy metals in amphibian.

Keywords: Mixed-metals, Digestive enzymes activity, Immune response, Intestinal microbiota, Bufo gargarizans.

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