Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology

, Volume 99, Issue 11, pp 4867–4877 | Cite as

Spatio-temporal variability of airborne bacterial communities and their correlation with particulate matter chemical composition across two urban areas

  • I. Gandolfi
  • V. Bertolini
  • G. Bestetti
  • R. Ambrosini
  • E. Innocente
  • G. Rampazzo
  • M. Papacchini
  • A. Franzetti
Environmental biotechnology


The study of spatio-temporal variability of airborne bacterial communities has recently gained importance due to the evidence that airborne bacteria are involved in atmospheric processes and can affect human health. In this work, we described the structure of airborne microbial communities in two urban areas (Milan and Venice, Northern Italy) through the sequencing, by the Illumina platform, of libraries containing the V5–V6 hypervariable regions of the 16S rRNA gene and estimated the abundance of airborne bacteria with quantitative PCR (qPCR). Airborne microbial communities were dominated by few taxa, particularly Burkholderiales and Actinomycetales, more abundant in colder seasons, and Chloroplasts, more abundant in warmer seasons. By partitioning the variation in bacterial community structure, we could assess that environmental and meteorological conditions, including variability between cities and seasons, were the major determinants of the observed variation in bacterial community structure, while chemical composition of atmospheric particulate matter (PM) had a minor contribution. Particularly, Ba, SO4 2− and Mg2+ concentrations were significantly correlated with microbial community structure, but it was not possible to assess whether they simply co-varied with seasonal shifts of bacterial inputs to the atmosphere, or their variation favoured specific taxa. Both local sources of bacteria and atmospheric dispersal were involved in the assembling of airborne microbial communities, as suggested, to the one side by the large abundance of bacteria typical of lagoon environments (Rhodobacterales) observed in spring air samples from Venice and to the other by the significant effect of wind speed in shaping airborne bacterial communities at all sites.


Air pollution Bioaerosol Particulate matter NGS Milan Venice 



This work was supported by Grant PRIN 2010_2011 (2010WLNFY2_005) from the Italian Ministry of Research (MIUR). The high-volume samplers (ECHO HiVol, TCR TECORA, Milan, Italy) used for Venice-Mestre and Venice-Porto Marghera were kindly provided by the Regional Agency of Environmental Protection (ARPA-Veneto; Some bioinformatics analyses were performed on CINECA-HPC computer cluster PLX (Grant: IscraC_METEXTRA), Bologna (Italy).

Supplementary material

253_2014_6348_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (1.1 mb)
ESM 1 (PDF 1081 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • I. Gandolfi
    • 1
  • V. Bertolini
    • 1
  • G. Bestetti
    • 1
  • R. Ambrosini
    • 2
  • E. Innocente
    • 3
  • G. Rampazzo
    • 3
  • M. Papacchini
    • 4
  • A. Franzetti
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Earth and Environmental SciencesUniversity of Milano-BicoccaMilanItaly
  2. 2.Department of Biotechnology and BiosciencesUniversity of Milano-BicoccaMilanItaly
  3. 3.Department of Environmental Sciences, Informatics and StatisticsUniversity of Ca’ FoscariVeniceItaly
  4. 4.INAIL Settore Ricerca, Certificazione e Verifica—DIPIARomaItaly

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