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      Microplastics provide new microbial niches in aquatic environments

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          Microplastics in the biosphere are currently of great environmental concern because of their potential toxicity for aquatic biota and human health and association with pathogenic microbiota. Microplastics can occur in high abundance in all aquatic environments, including oceans, rivers and lakes. Recent findings have highlighted the role of microplastics as important vectors for microorganisms, which can form fully developed biofilms on this artificial substrate. Microplastics therefore provide new microbial niches in the aquatic environment, and the developing biofilms may significantly differ in microbial composition compared to natural free-living or particle-associated microbial populations in the surrounding water. In this article, we discuss the composition and ecological function of the microbial communities found in microplastic biofilms. The potential factors that influence the richness and diversity of such microbial microplastic communities are also evaluated. Microbe-microbe and microbe-substrate interactions in microplastic biofilms have been little studied and are not well understood. Multiomics tools together with morphological, physiological and biochemical analyses should be combined to provide a more comprehensive overview on the ecological role of microplastic biofilms. These new microbial niches have so far unknown consequences for microbial ecology and environmental processes in aquatic ecosystems. More knowledge is required on the microbial community composition of microplastic biofilms and their ecological functions in order to better evaluate consequences for the environment and animal health, including humans, especially since the worldwide abundance of microplastics is predicted to dramatically increase.

          Key Points

          • Bacteria are mainly studied in community analyses: fungi are neglected.

          • Microbial colonization of microplastics depends on substrate, location and time.

          • Community ecology is a promising approach to investigate microbial colonization.

          • Biodegradable plastics, and ecological roles of microplastic biofilms, need analysis.

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          Most cited references 77

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          Patterns and processes of microbial community assembly.

          Recent research has expanded our understanding of microbial community assembly. However, the field of community ecology is inaccessible to many microbial ecologists because of inconsistent and often confusing terminology as well as unnecessarily polarizing debates. Thus, we review recent literature on microbial community assembly, using the framework of Vellend (Q. Rev. Biol. 85:183-206, 2010) in an effort to synthesize and unify these contributions. We begin by discussing patterns in microbial biogeography and then describe four basic processes (diversification, dispersal, selection, and drift) that contribute to community assembly. We also discuss different combinations of these processes and where and when they may be most important for shaping microbial communities. The spatial and temporal scales of microbial community assembly are also discussed in relation to assembly processes. Throughout this review paper, we highlight differences between microbes and macroorganisms and generate hypotheses describing how these differences may be important for community assembly. We end by discussing the implications of microbial assembly processes for ecosystem function and biodiversity.
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            Stochastic and deterministic assembly processes in subsurface microbial communities.

            A major goal of microbial community ecology is to understand the forces that structure community composition. Deterministic selection by specific environmental factors is sometimes important, but in other cases stochastic or ecologically neutral processes dominate. Lacking is a unified conceptual framework aiming to understand why deterministic processes dominate in some contexts but not others. Here we work toward such a framework. By testing predictions derived from general ecological theory we aim to uncover factors that govern the relative influences of deterministic and stochastic processes. We couple spatiotemporal data on subsurface microbial communities and environmental parameters with metrics and null models of within and between community phylogenetic composition. Testing for phylogenetic signal in organismal niches showed that more closely related taxa have more similar habitat associations. Community phylogenetic analyses further showed that ecologically similar taxa coexist to a greater degree than expected by chance. Environmental filtering thus deterministically governs subsurface microbial community composition. More importantly, the influence of deterministic environmental filtering relative to stochastic factors was maximized at both ends of an environmental variation gradient. A stronger role of stochastic factors was, however, supported through analyses of phylogenetic temporal turnover. Although phylogenetic turnover was on average faster than expected, most pairwise comparisons were not themselves significantly non-random. The relative influence of deterministic environmental filtering over community dynamics was elevated, however, in the most temporally and spatially variable environments. Our results point to general rules governing the relative influences of stochastic and deterministic processes across micro- and macro-organisms.
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              Bacterial biofilm development as a multicellular adaptation: antibiotic resistance and new therapeutic strategies.

              Bacteria have evolved the ability to form multicellular, surface-adherent communities called biofilms that allow survival in hostile environments. In clinical settings, bacteria are exposed to various sources of stress, including antibiotics, nutrient limitation, anaerobiosis, heat shock, etc., which in turn trigger adaptive responses in bacterial cells. The combination of this and other defense mechanisms results in the formation of highly (adaptively) resistant multicellular structures that are recalcitrant to host immune clearance mechanisms and very difficult to eradicate with the currently available antimicrobial agents, which are generally developed for the eradication of free-swimming (planktonic) bacteria. However, novel strategies that specifically target the biofilm mode of growth have been recently described, thus providing the basis for future anti-biofilm therapy. Copyright © 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

                Author and article information

                Appl Microbiol Biotechnol
                Appl. Microbiol. Biotechnol
                Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
                Springer Berlin Heidelberg (Berlin/Heidelberg )
                4 June 2020
                4 June 2020
                : 104
                : 15
                : 6501-6511
                [1 ]GRID grid.9227.e, ISNI 0000000119573309, Key Laboratory of Aquatic Botany and Watershed Ecology, Wuhan Botanical Garden, , Chinese Academy of Sciences, ; Wuhan, 430074 China
                [2 ]GRID grid.43641.34, ISNI 0000 0001 1014 6626, The James Hutton Institute, ; Craigiebuckler, Aberdeen, Scotland ABI5 8QH UK
                [3 ]GRID grid.419247.d, ISNI 0000 0001 2108 8097, Department of Experimental Limnology, , Leibniz Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (IGB), ; Alte Fischerhuette 2, 16775 Stechlin, Germany
                [4 ]GRID grid.11348.3f, ISNI 0000 0001 0942 1117, Institute of Biochemistry and Biology, , Potsdam University, ; Maulbeerallee 2, 14469 Potsdam, Germany
                [5 ]GRID grid.8241.f, ISNI 0000 0004 0397 2876, Geomicrobiology Group, School of Life Sciences, , University of Dundee, ; Dundee, Scotland DD1 5EH UK
                [6 ]GRID grid.411519.9, ISNI 0000 0004 0644 5174, State Key Laboratory of Heavy Oil Processing, State Key Laboratory of Petroleum Pollution Control, College of Science and Environment, , China University of Petroleum, ; Beijing, 102249 China
                © The Author(s) 2020

                Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit

                Funded by: Chinese Academy of Sciences
                Award ID: 2015282 and 2017388
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                © Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2020


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