Characterization of microbial community, ecological functions and antibiotic resistance in estuarine plastisphere

Le-Yang Yang, Xin-Rong Huang, Roy Neilson, Shu-Yi-Dan Zhou, Zhao-Lei Li, Xiao-Ru Yang, Xiao-Xuan Su (Lead / Corresponding author)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


The plastisphere is a new ecological niche. Compared to the surrounding water, microbial community composition associated with the plastisphere is known to differ with functional consequences. Here, this study characterized the bacterial and fungal communities associated with four types of plastisphere (polyethylene, polystyrene, polypropylene and polyvinyl chloride) in an estuarine habitat; assessed ecological functions including carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus and sulfur cycling, and determined the presence of antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) and human pathogens. Stochastic processes dominated the community assembly of microorganisms on the plastisphere. Several functional genera related to nutrient cycling were enriched in the plastisphere. Compared to surrounding water and other plastisphere, the abundances of carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus cycling genes (cdaR, nosZ and chpy etc.) and ARGs (aadA2-1, cfa and catB8 etc.) were significantly increased in polyvinyl chloride plastisphere. In contrast, the polystyrene plastisphere was the preferred substrate for several pathogens being enriched with for example, Giardia lamblia 18S rRNA, Klebsiella pneumoniae phoE and Legionella spp. 23S rRNA. Overall, this study showed that different plastisphere had different effects on ecological functions and health risk in estuaries and emphasizes the importance of controlling plastic pollution in estuaries. Data from this study support global policy drivers that seek to reduce plastic pollution and offer insights into ecological functions in a new ecological niche of the Anthropocene.

Original languageEnglish
Article number161322
Number of pages10
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Early online date2 Jan 2023
Publication statusPublished - 25 Mar 2023


  • Antibiotic resistance genes
  • Human pathogens
  • Microbial communities
  • Nutrient cycling
  • Plastic pollution

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pollution
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry


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