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Keywords:

  • Microbial community;
  • SSU rRNA gene;
  • Uranium;
  • Nitrate;
  • Groundwater

Abstract

Microbial communities were characterized at contaminated sites that had elevated levels of nitrate, nickel, aluminum, and uranium (up to 690 mM, 310 μM, 42 mM, and 30 μM, respectively). The bacterial community structure based upon clonal libraries of the SSU rRNA genes (screened clones = 876) was diverse at the background site, but the three acidic samples had decreased diversity and the majority of clones were closely related to Azoarcus and Pseudomonas species. Arthrobacter and Novosphingobium sequences were recovered from the background samples but not the acidic sites, and similar pseudomonad populations were present at the background and acidic sites albeit at different relative abundances. Heterologous sequence coverage analyses indicated the microbial communities at the contaminated sites were very similar (p= 0.001) but different from the background site. Bacterial isolates (n= 67) classified as β-or γ-Proteobacteria, high G+C Gram-positive or low G+C Gram-positive were obtained from the background and one contaminated sample, and some of the isolates had less than 95% sequence identity with previously observed microorganisms. Despite variations in nitrate and heavy metal levels and different proximities to the source ponds, the three acidic samples had similar microbial populations. However, the least contaminated site (lowest nitrate and aluminum) had increased diversity compared to the other acidic samples. The results suggested that the combined contamination has decreased the microbial diversity, and Azoarcus populations were observed at a drastically increased frequency compared to the background site that had a more even distribution of multiple taxa.