Quantifying the sensitivity of soil microbial communities to silver sulfide nanoparticles using metagenome sequencing

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Abstract

Soils are a sink for sulfidised-silver nanoparticles (Ag2S-NPs), yet there are limited ecotoxicity data for their effects on microbial communities. Conventional toxicity tests typically target a single test species or function, which does not reflect the broader community response. Using a combination of quantitative PCR, 16S rRNA amplicon sequencing and species sensitivity distribution (SSD) methods, we have developed a new approach to calculate silver-based NP toxicity thresholds (HCx, hazardous concentrations) that are protective of specific members (operational taxonomic units, OTUs) of the soil microbial community. At the HC20 (80% of species protected), soil OTUs were significantly less sensitive to Ag2S-NPs compared to AgNPs and Ag+ (5.9, 1.4 and 1.4 mg Ag kg-1, respectively). However at more conservative HC values, there were no significant differences. These trends in OTU responses matched with those seen in a specific microbial function (rate of nitrification) and amoA-bacteria gene abundance. This study provides a novel molecularbased framework for quantifying the effect of a toxicant on whole soil microbial communities while still determining sensitive genera/species. Methods and results described here provide a benchmark for microbial community ecotoxicological studies and we recommend that future revisions of Soil Quality Guidelines for AgNPs and other such toxicants consider this approach.

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Doolette, C. L., Gupta, V. V. S. R., Lu, Y., Payne, J. L., Batstone, D. J., Kirby, J. K., … McLaughlin, M. J. (2016). Quantifying the sensitivity of soil microbial communities to silver sulfide nanoparticles using metagenome sequencing. PLoS ONE, 11(8). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0161979

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