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Distribution of Metal Resistance Genes in Estuarine Sediments and Associated Key Impact Factors


Currently, little is known about the distribution of metal resistance genes (MRGs) in estuarine sediments. In this study, we used the high-throughput quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (HT-qPCR) to determine the distribution of MRGs in the sediments of an estuary system and the associated key impact factors. The relative abundance of the detected MRGs showed a decreasing trend from the river inlet toward the sea and a decrease from the middle area of the estuary to the near-shore areas on both sides; these decreases were higher in the summer than in the winter. In the estuary system during the summer, the abundance of Zn- and Cu-MRGs from the river inlet to the sea decreased by 99.5% and 93.6%, whereas those of Hg- and Cd-Zn-Co-MRGs increased by 51.5% and 16.7%, respectively. Moreover, the abundance of Zn- and Cu-MRGs in the winter decreased by 88.6% and 97.7%, respectively, whereas that of Cd-Bi-Zn-Pb-MRGs increased by 729.6%. Furthermore, the abundances of MRGs and mobile genetic elements (MGEs) were significantly positively correlated with the levels of antibiotic residues and heavy metals as well as with the particle size and total organic carbon content of the sediment; however, they were significantly negatively correlated with seawater salinity and the oxidation and reduction potential (Eh) and pH of the sediment. The abundance of MGEs was significantly positively correlated with the abundance of MRGs in the sediment. Our findings suggest that antibiotic residues facilitated the proliferation and propagation of MRGs by promoting MGEs in estuarine sediments.

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This work was carried out with the financial support from the 65th batch of scientific research start-up fund project of Fujian University of Technology (No. GY-Z19042), and the Fujian Provincial Natural Science Foundation project (No. 2020 J01880).

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Xiao-Ming Lu was responsible for the design, data analysis, and writing–review and editing. Xue-Ping Liu performed sampling and measurements.

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Correspondence to Xiao-Ming Lu.

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This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Lu, XM., Liu, XP. Distribution of Metal Resistance Genes in Estuarine Sediments and Associated Key Impact Factors. Microb Ecol 82, 581–590 (2021).

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  • Estuarine sediment
  • Metal resistance gene
  • Antibiotic residue
  • Environmental factor