University of Oulu

Lavrinienko, A., Tukalenko, E., Mappes, T. et al. Skin and gut microbiomes of a wild mammal respond to different environmental cues. Microbiome 6, 209 (2018).

Skin and gut microbiomes of a wild mammal respond to different environmental cues

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Author: Lavrinienko, Anton1; Tukalenko, Eugene1,2; Mappes, Tapio3;
Organizations: 1Department of Ecology and Genetics, University of Oulu, 90570 Oulu, Finland
2Institute of Biology and Medicine, Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, Kyiv 03022, Ukraine
3Department of Biological and Environmental Science, University of Jyväskylä, 40014 Jyväskylä, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 4.2 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Springer Nature, 2018
Publish Date: 2020-12-17


Background: Animal skin and gut microbiomes are important components of host fitness. However, the processes that shape the microbiomes of wildlife are poorly understood, particularly with regard to exposure to environmental contaminants. We used 16S rRNA amplicon sequencing to quantify how exposure to radionuclides impacts the skin and gut microbiota of a small mammal, the bank vole Myodes glareolus, inhabiting areas within and outside the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone (CEZ), Ukraine.

Results: Skin microbiomes of male bank voles were more diverse than females. However, the most pronounced differences in skin microbiomes occurred at a larger spatial scale, with higher alpha diversity in the skin microbiomes of bank voles from areas within the CEZ, whether contaminated by radionuclides or not, than in the skin microbiomes of animals from uncontaminated locations outside the CEZ, near Kyiv. Similarly, irrespective of the level of radionuclide contamination, skin microbiome communities (beta diversity) showed greater similarities within the CEZ, than to the areas near Kyiv. Hence, bank vole skin microbiome communities are structured more by geography than the level of soil radionuclides. This pattern presents a contrast with bank vole gut microbiota, where microbiomes could be strikingly similar among distant (~ 80 km of separation), uncontaminated locations, and where differences in microbiome community structure were associated with the level of radioactivity. We also found that the level of (dis)similarity between the skin and gut microbiome communities from the same individuals was contingent on the potential for exposure to radionuclides.

Conclusions: Bank vole skin and gut microbiomes have distinct responses to similar environmental cues and thus are structured at different spatial scales. Our study shows how exposure to environmental pollution can affect the relationship between a mammalian host’s skin and gut microbial communities, potentially homogenising the microbiomes in habitats affected by pollution.

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Series: Microbiome
ISSN: 2049-2618
ISSN-E: 2049-2618
Volume: 6
Article number: 209
DOI: 10.1186/s40168-018-0595-0
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 1181 Ecology, evolutionary biology
1183 Plant biology, microbiology, virology
1172 Environmental sciences
Funding: The project was funded by the Academy of Finland to PW (project number 287153) and to TM (project number 268670) and by an open-research doctoral program award (to AL) from the University of Oulu Graduate School. The funders had no role in this study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
Academy of Finland Grant Number: 287153
Detailed Information: 287153 (Academy of Finland Funding decision)
Dataset Reference: Availability of data and materials Bank vole skin microbiome sequence data are available at the European Bioinformatics Institute (EBI, accession number: ERP110215) database via Qiita (, study ID: 11844). Bank vole gut microbiome data [47] are available via Qiita (study ID 11360), or through the EBI accession number ERP104266.
Copyright information: © The Author(s). 2018 Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.