University of Oulu

Brila, I., Lavrinienko, A., Tukalenko, E., Ecke, F., Rodushkin, I., Kallio, E. R., Mappes, T., & Watts, P. C. (2021). Low-level environmental metal pollution is associated with altered gut microbiota of a wild rodent, the bank vole (Myodes glareolus). Science of The Total Environment, 790, 148224.

Low-level environmental metal pollution is associated with altered gut microbiota of a wild rodent, the bank vole (Myodes glareolus)

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Author: Brila, Ilze1,2; Lavrinienko, Anton2; Tukalenko, Eugene1,2,3;
Organizations: 1Ecology and Genetics Unit, University of Oulu, Oulu 90014, Finland
2Department of Biological and Environmental Science, University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä 40014, Finland
3National Research Center for Radiation Medicine of the National Academy of Medical Science, Kyiv 04050, Ukraine
4Department of Wildlife, Fish, and Environmental Studies, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, 901 83 Umeå, Sweden
5Division of Geosciences, Luleå University of Technology, 971 87 Luleå, Sweden
6ALS Laboratory Group, ALS Scandinavia AB, Aurorum 10, 977 75 Luleå, Sweden
7School of Resource Wisdom, University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä 40014, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 1.5 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Elsevier, 2021
Publish Date: 2021-06-15


Mining and related industries are a major source of metal pollution. In contrast to the well-studied effects of exposure to metals on animal physiology and health, the impacts of environmental metal pollution on the gut microbiota of wild animals are virtually unknown. As the gut microbiota is a key component of host health, it is important to understand whether metal pollution can alter wild animal gut microbiota composition. Using a combination of 16S rRNA amplicon sequencing and quantification of metal levels in kidneys, we assessed whether multi-metal exposure (the sum of normalized levels of fifteen metals) was associated with changes in gut microbiota of wild bank voles (Myodes glareolus) from two locations in Finland. Exposure to increased metal load was associated with higher gut microbiota species diversity (α-diversity) and altered community composition (β-diversity), but not dispersion. Multi-metal exposure and increased levels of several metals (Cd, Hg, Pb and Se) were associated with differences in the abundance of microbial taxa, especially those within the families Clostridiales vadinBB60 group, Desulfovibrionaceae, Lachnospiraceae, Muribaculaceae and Ruminococcaceae. Our data indicate that even low-level metal pollution can affect the diversity of microbiota and be associated with deterministic differences in composition of host gut microbiota in wild animal populations. These findings highlight the need to study a broader range of metals and their cocktails that are more representative of the types of environmental exposure experienced by wild animals.

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Series: Science of the total environment
ISSN: 0048-9697
ISSN-E: 1879-1026
ISSN-L: 0048-9697
Volume: 790
Article number: 148224
DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2021.148224
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 1181 Ecology, evolutionary biology
Funding: This work was supported by the Kvantum Institute at the University of Oulu, BiodivERsA, Belmont Forum, Academy of Finland and the Swedish Research Council Formas (project numbers 329334 and 326534 to PCW, 329308 to ERK, 268670 and 324605 to TM, grant number 2018-02427 to FE).
Academy of Finland Grant Number: 326534
Detailed Information: 326534 (Academy of Finland Funding decision)
Copyright information: © 2021 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (