Distinct microbial metabolic activities of biofilms colonizing microplastics in three freshwater ecosystems

Lingzhan Miao, Yue Yu, Tanveer M. Adyel, Chengqian Wang, Zhilin Liu, Songqi Liu, Liuyan Huang, Guoxiang You, Meng Meng, Hao Qu, Jun Hou

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Concerns are growing about the increasing amounts of microplastics (MPs) and their ecological impacts, especially the influences of “plastisphere” in the freshwater ecosystems. Although the microbial structure and composition of biofilms are investigated, knowledge of their microbial functions remains limited. Herein, we investigated the functional diversity of carbon metabolism in biofilms colonizing one inert (glass) and two MPs as polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) substrates incubated for 44 days in situ in the Niushoushan River, the Qinhuai River, and Donghu Lake. 2D confocal laser scanning microscopy images visualized distinct micro-structures and biofilm compositions on three substrates. BIOLOG ECO microplates indicated variation on carbon utilization capacities of biofilms of inert and MPs in three freshwater ecosystems. Biofilms on PET showed lower capacities and carbon metabolism rates than those on glass and PVC, indicating the presence of substrate-specific functional diversity. The Shannon-Wiener diversity, Simpson diversity and Shannon evenness indices for the Niushoushan River and Donghu Lake were ordered as glass > PVC > PET. Besides to MPs-specific factors, environmental factors including nutrient (i.e., TN and TP) and turbidity largely shaped biofilm carbon metabolism. Overall findings demonstrated that as specific niches, MPs influenced microbial-mediated carbon cycling in the freshwater ecosystems and MPs-promoted microbial communities posed ecological significance.

Original languageEnglish
Article number123577
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Hazardous Materials
Publication statusPublished - 5 Feb 2021


  • Biofilm
  • Environmental factor
  • Metabolic function
  • Microplastics
  • Substrate type

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