Vertical distribution of antibiotic resistance genes in an urban green facade

Shu-Yi-Dan Zhou, Qi Zhang, Roy Neilson, Madeline Giles, Hu Li, Xiao-Ru Yang, Jian-Qiang Su, Yong-Guan Zhu (Lead / Corresponding author)

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The phyllosphere is considered a key site for the transfer of both naturally and anthropogenically selected antimicrobial resistance genes (ARGs) to humans. Consequently, the development of green building systems may pose an, as yet, unexplored pathway for ARGs and pathogens to transfer from the environment to outdoor plants. We collected leaves from plants climbing up buildings at 1, 2, 4 and 15 m above ground level and collected associated dust samples from adjacent windowsills to determine the diversity and relative abundance of microbiota and ARGs. Overall, a total of 143 ARGs from 11 major classes and 18 mobile genetic elements (MGEs) were detected. The relative abundance of ARGs within the phyllosphere decreased with increasing height above ground level. Fast expectation-maximization microbial source tracking (FEAST) suggested that the contribution of soil and aerosols to the phyllosphere microbiome was limited. A culture-dependent method to isolate bacteria from plant tissues identified a total of 91 genera from root, stem, and leaf samples as well as endophytes isolated from leaves. Of those bacteria, 20 isolates representing 9 genera were known human pathogenic members to humans. Shared bacterial from culture-dependent and culture-independent methods suggest microorganisms may move from soil to plant, potentially through an endophytic mechanism and thus, there is a clear potential for movement of ARGs and human pathogens from the outdoor environment.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106502
Number of pages9
JournalEnvironment International
Early online date12 Mar 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 12 Mar 2021


  • Phyllosphere
  • Green spaces
  • Urban environment
  • Urban microbiome
  • Human health

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