Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 25, Issue 17, pp 17128–17136 | Cite as

Low-level concentrations of aminoglycoside antibiotics induce the aggregation of cyanobacteria

  • Lin-Rui Tan
  • Peng-Fei Xia
  • Raymond J. Zeng
  • Qian Li
  • Xue-Fei Sun
  • Shu-Guang Wang
Research Article


The interactions between antibiotics and microorganisms have attracted enormous research attentions. In this study, we investigated the effects of two typical aminoglycoside antibiotics on the aggregation of the model cyanobacterium, Synechococcus elongatus, and the dominating strain in algal blooms, Microcystis aeruginosa, via the analysis of zeta potentials, hydrophobicity, and extracellular polymeric substances (EPS) secretion. The results showed that low-level antibiotics promoted the aggregation of S. elongatus and M. aeruginosa by 40 and 18% under 0.10 and 0.02 μg/mL of kanamycin, respectively, which was mainly attributed to the combined effects of increased zeta potentials and the ratio between extracellular proteins and polysaccharides. Tobramycin exerted similar effects. Additionally, we discovered that at low pH (pH 5) and ionic strength (1 mM Na+ and 2 mM Mg2+), the inducing effects of antibiotics would be even larger than those with higher pH and ionic strength. As aggregation is important to cyanobacteria in either the basic physiology of biofilm formation or the algal bloom, our study demonstrated that low-level antibiotics exert ecological impacts via interfered aggregation. We believe this study will shed light on the mechanisms underlying antibiotic-induced biofilm formation and help with the evaluation of the environmental and ecological risks of antibiotics and other emerging pollutants.


Cyanobacteria Aggregation Low-level antibiotics Extracellular polymeric substances (EPS) 



This study was funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (21476130).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lin-Rui Tan
    • 1
  • Peng-Fei Xia
    • 1
  • Raymond J. Zeng
    • 2
  • Qian Li
    • 1
  • Xue-Fei Sun
    • 1
  • Shu-Guang Wang
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Environmental Science and EngineeringShandong UniversityJinanPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.CAS Key Laboratory of Urban Pollutant Conversion, Department of ChemistryUniversity of Science and Technology of ChinaHefeiPeople’s Republic of China

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