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Profiling of Microbial Communities in the Sediments of Jinsha River Watershed Exposed to Different Levels of Impacts by the Vanadium Industry, Panzhihua, China


The mining, smelting, manufacturing, and disposal of vanadium (V) and associated products have caused serious environmental problems. Although the microbial ecology in V-contaminated soils has been intensively studied, the impacted watershed ecosystems have not been systematically investigated. In this study, geochemistry and microbial structure were analyzed along ~30 km of the Jinsha River and its two tributaries across the industrial areas in Panzhihua, one of the primary V mining and production cities in China. Geochemical analyses showed different levels of contamination by metals and metalloids in the sediments, with high degrees of contamination observed in one of the tributaries close to the industrial park. Analyses of the V4 hypervariable region of 16S rRNA genes of the microbial communities in the sediments showed significant decrease in microbial diversity and microbial structure in response to the environmental gradient (e.g., heavy metals, total sulfur, and total nitrogen). Strong association of the taxa (e.g., Thauera, Algoriphagus, Denitromonas, and Fontibacter species) with the metals suggested selection for these potential metal-resistant and/or metabolizing populations. Further co-occurrence network analysis showed that many identified potential metal-mediating species were among the keystone taxa that were closely associated in the same module, suggesting their strong inter-species interactions but relative independence from other microorganisms in the hydrodynamic ecosystems. This study provided new insight into the microbe-environment interactions in watershed ecosystems differently impacted by the V industries. Some of the phylotypes identified in the highly contaminated samples exhibited potential for bioremediation of toxic metals (e.g., V and Cr).

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We thank Sen Yan (China University of Geosciences (Wuhan)) and Hongqin Tang (Panzhihua Office of the Hydrological Bureau of Sichuan Province) for the technical support.

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National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) GeneBank under the SRA accession numbers SAMN15650059-SAMN15650084 as well as the National Omics Data Encyclopedia (NODE) under the Project ID OEP001390.


This study was funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China under the contracts 92051111, 41877321, and 91851211, and the Fundamental Research Funds for the Chinese Central Government via China University of Geosciences (Wuhan). Sampling was partially supported by China Three Gorges Projects Development Co. Ltd (JG/18011B).

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Y. H., D. H., and S. L. contributed to material preparation, sampling, geochemical analyses, and bioinformatic analyses. M. W., H. F., and X. T. organized the sampling. Y. D. designed the study and supervised the data analyses. The first draft of the manuscript was written by Y. D., Y, H., and L. S. R. S., W. S., and Y. L. commented on previous versions of the manuscript. All the authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Yiran Dong.

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He, Y., Huang, D., Li, S. et al. Profiling of Microbial Communities in the Sediments of Jinsha River Watershed Exposed to Different Levels of Impacts by the Vanadium Industry, Panzhihua, China. Microb Ecol 82, 623–637 (2021).

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  • Microbial communities
  • Watershed
  • Vanadium
  • Microbe-environment interactions
  • Co-occurrence network
  • Keystone taxa