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Comparison of aerobic and anaerobic [3H]leucine incorporation assays for determining pollution-induced bacterial community tolerance in copper-polluted, irrigated soils



Pollution-induced community tolerance (PICT) constitutes a sensitive and ecologically relevant impact parameter in ecotoxicology. We report the development and application of a novel anaerobic [3H]leucine incorporation assay and its comparison with the conventional aerobic [3H]leucine incorporation assay for PICT detection in soil bacterial communities. Selection of bacterial communities was performed over 42 d in bulk soil microcosms (no plants) and in rice (Oryza sativa) rhizosphere soil mesocosms. The following experimental treatments were imposed using a full factorial design: two soil types, two soil water regimes, and four Cu application rates (0, 30, 120, or 280 µg g−1). Bacterial communities in bulk soil microcosms exhibited similar Cu tolerance patterns when assessed by aerobic and anaerobic PICT assays, whereas aerobic microorganisms tended to be more strongly selected for Cu tolerance than anaerobic microorganisms in rhizosphere soil. Despite similar levels of water-extractable Cu, bacterial Cu tolerance was significantly higher in acid sulfate soil than in alluvial soil. Copper amendment selected for significant PICT development in soils subjected to alternate wetting and drying, but not in continuously flooded soils. Our results demonstrate that soil bacterial communities subjected to alternate wetting and drying may be more affected by Cu than bacterial communities subjected to continuous flooding. We conclude that the parallel use of anaerobic and aerobic [3H]leucine PICT assays constitutes a valuable improvement over existing procedures for PICT detection in irrigated soils and other redox gradient environments such as sediments and wetlands. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 2011; 30:588–595. © 2011 SETAC