Exploring the Composition and Functions of Plastic Microbiome Using Whole-Genome Sequencing

Geetika Bhagwat, Qiyun Zhu, Wayne O'Connor, Suresh Subashchandrabose, Ian Grainge, Rob Knight, Thava Palanisami

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

71 Scopus citations


Besides the ecotoxicological consequences of microplastics and associated chemicals, the association of microbes on plastics has greater environmental implications as microplastics may select for unique microbiome participating in environmentally significant functions. Despite this, the functional potential of the microbiome associated with different types of plastics is understudied. Here, we investigate the interaction between plastic and marine biofilm-forming microorganisms through a whole-genome sequencing approach on four types of microplastics incubated in the marine environment. Taxonomic analysis suggested that the microplastic surfaces exhibit unique microbial profiles and niche partitioning among the substrates. In particular, the abundance of Vibrio alginolyticus and Vibrio campbellii suggested that microplastic pollution may pose a potential risk to the marine food chain and negatively impact aquaculture industries. Microbial genera involved in xenobiotic compound degradation, carbon cycling, and genes associated with the type IV secretion system, conjugal transfer protein TraG, plant-pathogen interaction, CusA/CzcA family heavy metal efflux transfer proteins, and TolC family proteins were significantly enriched on all the substrates, indicating the variety of processes operated by the plastic-microbiome. The present study gives a detailed characterization of the rapidly altering microbial composition and gene pools on plastics and adds new knowledge surrounding the environmental ramifications of marine plastic pollution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4899-4913
Number of pages15
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Apr 20 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry


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