• Sulfate reduction;
  • Coastal sediments;
  • Sulfate-reducing bacteria;
  • Copper;
  • Molecular diversity


Sulfate-reducing bacterial communities from coastal sediments with a long-term exposure to copper (Cu)-mining residues were studied in lactate enrichments. The toxicity of excess copper may affect sulfate-reducing bacterial communities. Sulfate reduction was monitored by sulfate and organic acid measurements. Molecular diversity was analyzed by 16S rRNA, dissimilatory sulfate reduction dsrAB, and Cu translocating phospho-type adenosine triphosphatases (P-ATPases) cop-like gene sequence profiling. The influence of Cu amendment was tested in these enrichments. Results showed fast sulfate reduction mostly coupled to incomplete organic carbon oxidation and partial sulfate reduction inhibition due to copper amendment. The 16S rRNA clonal libraries analysis indicated that δ- and γ-Proteobacteria and Cytophaga–Flexibacter–Bacteroides dominated the enrichments. The dsrAB libraries revealed the presence of Desulfobacteraceae and Desulfovibrionaceae families-related sequences. Copper produced significant shifts (i.e., a decrease in the relative abundance of sulfate-reducing microorganisms) in the enriched bacterial community structure as determined by terminal-restriction fragment length polymorphism (T-RFLP) profiling and multivariate analyses. Clonal libraries of cop-like sequences showed low richness in the enriched microbial communities, and a strong effect of copper on its relative abundance. Novel Cu-PIB-ATPase sequences encoding Cu resistance were detected. The present study indicates that Cu does not significantly affect sulfate reduction and genetic diversity of taxonomic and dissimilatory sulfate-reduction molecular markers. However, the diversity of Cu resistance genetic determinants was strongly modified by this toxic metal. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 2010;29:256–264. © 2009 SETAC