Bioavailability of potentially toxic elements influences antibiotic resistance gene and mobile genetic element abundances in urban and rural soils

Katie Robins, Clare M. McCann, Xin-Yuan Zhou, Jian-Qiang Su, Martin Cooke, Charles W. Knapp*, David W. Graham

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) that can encode resistance traits in bacteria are found across the environment. While it is often difficult to discern their origin, their prevalence and diversity depends on many factors, one of which is their exposure to potentially toxic elements (PTE, i.e., metals and metalloids) in soils. Here, we investigated how ambient ARGs and mobile genetic elements (MGEs) relate to the relative bioavailability of different PTEs (total versus exchangeable and carbonate-bound PTE) in rural and urban soils in northeast England. The average relative abundances of ARGs in rural sites varied over a 3-log range (7.24 × 10−7 to 1.0 × 10−4 genes/16S rRNA), and relative ARG abundances in urban sites varied by four orders of magnitude (1.75 × 10−6 to 2.85 × 10−2 genes/16S rRNA). While beta-lactam and aminoglycoside resistance genes dominated rural and urban sites, respectively, non-specific ARGs, also called multidrug-resistance genes, were significantly more abundant in urban sites (p < 0.05). Urban sites also had higher concentrations of total and exchangeable forms of PTE than rural sites, whereas rural sites were higher in carbonate-bound forms. Significant positive Spearman correlations between PTEs, ARGs and MGEs were apparent, especially with bioavailable PTE fractions and at urban sites. This study found significant positive correlations between ARGs and beryllium (Be), which has not previously been reported. Overall, our results show that PTE bioavailability is important in explaining the relative selection of ARGs in soil settings and must be considered in future co-selection and ARG exposure studies.
Original languageEnglish
Article number157512
Number of pages11
JournalThe Science of the Total Environment
Volume847
Early online date22 Jul 2022
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 22 Jul 2022

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