Soil Hg Contamination Impact on Earthworms' Gut Microbiome
Mercury (Hg) is one of the most toxic heavy metals and is known for its persistence in the environment and potential to accumulate along the food chain. In many terrestrial polluted sites, earthworms are in direct contact with Hg contamination by ingesting large quantities of soil. However, little is known about the impact of Hg soil pollution on earthworms' gut microbiome. In this study, two incubation experiments involving earthworms in soils from a long-term Hg-polluted site were conducted
... te were conducted to assess: (1) the effect of soil Hg contamination on the diversity and structure of microbial communities in earthworm, cast and soil samples; and (2) how the gut microbiome of different digestive track parts of the earthworm responds to soil Hg contamination. The large accumulation of total Hg and methyl-Hg within the earthworm tissues clearly impacted the bacterial and fungal gut community structures, drastically decreasing the relative abundance of the dominating gut bacterial class Mollicutes. Hg-tolerant taxa were found to be taxonomically widespread but consistent along the different parts of the earthworm digestive tract. This study revealed that although Hg might not directly affect the health of macro-organisms in the food-web such as earthworms, their metabolism and legacy in the soil might be impacted through changes in their gut microbiome.