Acclimation of subsurface microbial communities to mercury

Julia R. de Lipthay, Lasse Dam Rasmussen, Gunnar Øregaard, Kristoffer Simonsen, Martin Iain Bahl, Niels Kroer, Søren Johannes Sørensen

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


We studied the acclimation to mercury of bacterial communities of different depths from contaminated and noncontaminated floodplain soils. The level of mercury tolerance of the bacterial communities from the contaminated site was higher than those of the reference site. Furthermore, the level of mercury tolerance and functional versatility of bacterial communities in contaminated soils initially were higher for surface soil, compared with the deeper soils. However, following new mercury exposure, no differences between bacterial communities were observed, which indicates a high adaptive potential of the subsurface communities, possibly due to differences in the availability of mercury. IncP-1 trfA genes were detected in extracted community DNA from all soil depths of the contaminated site, and this finding was correlated to the isolation of four different mercury-resistance plasmids, all belonging to the IncP-1 beta group. The abundance of merA and IncP-1 plasmid carrying populations increased, after new mercury exposure, which could be the result of selection as well as horizontal gene exchange. The data in this study suggest a role for IncP-1 plasmids in the acclimation to mercury of surface as well as subsurface soil microbial communities.
Keyword: subsurface soil,microbial diversity,plasmids,Oak Ridge
Original languageEnglish
JournalF E M S Microbiology Ecology
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)145-155
Publication statusPublished - 2008
Externally publishedYes


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