Yuan Ge, Joshua P. Schimel and Patricia A. Holden
Department of Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology.
Because soil is expected to be a major sink for engineered nanoparticles (ENPs) released to the environment, the effects of ENPs on soil processes and the organisms that carry them out should be understood. DNA-based fingerprinting analyses have shown that ENPs alter soil bacterial communities, but specific taxon changes remain unknown. We used bar-coded pyrosequencing to explore the responses of diverse bacterial taxa to two widely used ENPs, nano-TiO2 and nano-ZnO, at various doses (0, 0.5, 1.0, and 2.0 mg g−1 soil for TiO2; 0.05, 0.1, and 0.5 mg g−1 soil for ZnO) in incubated soil microcosms. These ENPs significantly altered the bacterial communities in a dose-dependent manner, with some taxa increasing as a proportion of the community, but more taxa decreasing, indicating that effects mostly reduced diversity. Some of the declining taxa are known to be associated with nitrogen fixation (Rhizobiales, Bradyrhizobiaceae, and Bradyrhizobium) and methane oxidation (Methylobacteriaceae), while some positively impacted taxa are known to be associated with the decomposition of recalcitrant organic pollutants (Sphingomonadaceae) and biopolymers including protein (Streptomycetaceae and Streptomyces), indicating potential consequences to ecosystem-scale processes. The latter was suggested by a positive correlation between protease activity and the relative abundance of Streptomycetaceae (R = 0.49, P = 0.000) and Streptomyces (R = 0.47, P = 0.000). Our results demonstrate that some metal oxide nanoparticles could affect soil bacterial communities and associated processes through effects on susceptible, narrow-function bacterial taxa.