Microplastic bacterial communities in the Bay of Brest: Influence of polymer type and size

Microplastics (<5 mm) exhibit intrinsic features such as density, hydrophobic surface, or high surface/volume ratio, that are known to promote microbial colonization and biofilm formation in marine ecosystems. Yet, a relatively low number of studies have investigated the nature of microplastic associated bacterial communities in coastal ecosystems and the potential factors influencing their composition and structure. Here, we characterized microplastics collected in the Bay of Brest by manual sorting followed by Raman spectroscopy and studied their associated bacterial assemblages using 16S amplicon high-throughput sequencing. Our methodology allowed discriminating polymer type (polyethylene, polypropylene and polystyrene) within small size ranges (0.3–1 vs. 1–2 vs. 2–5 mm) of microplastics collected. Data showed high species richness and diversity on microplastics compared to surrounding seawater samples encompassing both free living and particle attached bacteria. Even though a high proportion of operational taxonomic units (OTU; 94 ± 4%) was shared among all plastic polymers, polystyrene fragments exhibited distinct bacterial assemblages as compared to polyethylene and polypropylene samples. No effect of microplastic size was revealed regardless of polymer type, site and date of collection. The Vibrio genus was commonly detected in the microplastic fraction and specific PCR were performed to determine the presence of potentially pathogenic Vibrio strains (namely V. aestuarianus and the V. splendidus polyphyletic group). V. splendidus related species harboring putative oyster pathogens were detected on most microplastic pools (77%) emphasizing the need of further research to understand the role of microplastics on pathogen population transport and ultimate disease emergence.


Bacteria, Microplastics, Coastal ecosystem, Metabarcoding, Vibrios

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Frere Laura, Maignien Lois, Chalopin Morgane, Huvet Arnaud, Rinnert Emmanuel, Morrison Hilary, Kerninon Sandrine, Cassone Anne-Laure, Lambert Christophe, Reveillaud Julie, Paul-Pont Ika (2018). Microplastic bacterial communities in the Bay of Brest: Influence of polymer type and size. Environmental Pollution. 242 (Part A). 614-625. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envpol.2018.07.023, https://archimer.ifremer.fr/doc/00449/56082/

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