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Environmental Pollution
Volume 283, 2021, 117095

Keystone taxa shared between earthworm gut and soil indigenous microbial communities collaboratively resist chlordane stress?

Guofan Zhua,b,1, Ruijun Duc,1, Daolin Duc, Jiazhong Qianb, Mao Yea

Key Laboratory of Soil Environment and Pollution Remediation, Institute of Soil Science, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Nanjing, 210008, PR China.


Chlordane is an organochlorine pesticide that is applied extensively. Residual concentrations that remain in soils after application are highly toxic to soil organisms, particularly affecting the earthworm gut and indigenous soil microorganisms. However, response mechanisms of the earthworm gut and indigenous soil microorganism communities to chlordane exposure are not well known. In this study, earthworms (Metaphire guillelmi) were exposed to chlordane-contaminated soils to investigate their response mechanisms over a gradient of chlordane toxicity. Results from high-throughput sequencing and network analysis showed that the bacterial composition in the earthworm gut varied more significantly than that in indigenous soil microbial communities under different concentrations of chlordane stress (2.3–60.8 mg kg-1; p < 0.05). However, keystone species of Flavobacterium, Candidatus Nitrososphaera, and Acinetobacter remained stable in both the earthworm gut and bacterial communities despite varying degrees of chlordane exposure, and their relative abundance was slightly higher in the low-concentration treatment group (T1, T2) than in the high-concentration treatment group (T3, T4). Additionally, network analysis demonstrated that the average value of the mean degree of centrality, closeness centrality, and eigenvector centrality of all keystone species screened by four methods (MetagenomeSeq, LEfSe, OPLS-DA, Random Forest) were 161.3, 0.5, and 0.63, respectively, and that these were significantly higher (p < 0.05) than values for non-keystone species (84.9, 0.4, and 0.2, respectively). Keystone species had greater network connectivity and a stronger capacity to degrade pesticides and transform carbon and nitrogen than non-keystone species. The keystone species, which were closely related to the microbial community in soil indigenous flora and earthworm intestinal flora, could resist chlordane stress and undertake pesticide degradation. These results have increased understanding of the role of the earthworm gut and indigenous soil bacteria in resisting chlordane stress and sustaining microbial equilibrium in soil.

Keywords: Keystone species, Network analysis, Chlordane, Indigenous soil bacteria, Earthworm gut.

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