Diversity and Distribution of Arsenic-Related Genes Along a Pollution Gradient in a River Affected by Acid Mine Drainage
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Some microorganisms have the capacity to interact with arsenic through resistance or metabolic processes. Their activities contribute to the fate of arsenic in contaminated ecosystems. To investigate the genetic potential involved in these interactions in a zone of confluence between a pristine river and an arsenic-rich acid mine drainage, we explored the diversity of marker genes for arsenic resistance (arsB, acr3.1, acr3.2), methylation (arsM), and respiration (arrA) in waters characterized by contrasted concentrations of metallic elements (including arsenic) and pH. While arsB-carrying bacteria were representative of pristine waters, Acr3 proteins may confer to generalist bacteria the capacity to cope with an increase of contamination. arsM showed an unexpected wide distribution, suggesting biomethylation may impact arsenic fate in contaminated aquatic ecosystems. arrA gene survey suggested that only specialist microorganisms (adapted to moderately or extremely contaminated environments) have the capacity to respire arsenate. Their distribution, modulated by water chemistry, attested the specialist nature of the arsenate respirers. This is the first report of the impact of an acid mine drainage on the diversity and distribution of arsenic (As)-related genes in river waters. The fate of arsenic in this ecosystem is probably under the influence of the abundance and activity of specific microbial populations involved in different As biotransformations.
KeywordsMicrobial ecotoxicology Arsenic biotransformations Functional gene diversity Acid mine drainage
We thank the University of Montpellier, the IRD, and the OSU OREME for financial support. We thank Yong-Guan Zhu, Si-Yu Zhang, and Yan Jia (Chinese Academy of Sciences) for useful discussions about arsM primers and Ludovic Giloteaux (Cornell University, USA) for useful discussion about arsB and acr3p genes. The authors wish also to thank David Karlin for his suggestions for improvement of the manuscript.
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