How do “microbial communities” assemble?

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May 13, 2024

“Topography” and “Geology” of materials determine the members of microbiomes

A collaborative research team of the RIKEN CSRS and the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology identified factors that determine whether microbes form a community on plastic surfaces.
In this study, the research team assembled an assay system for biodegradability using microbiomes in estuary water from Tsurumi River in Japan to investigate the degradability of 37 types of biodegradable oligomers. From the aspect of chemical structures, oligomers with more adipic acid monomers exhibited higher mobility, water affinity, and degradation rates. In contrast, those with more aromatic monomers showed opposite propensities. The surfaces of oligomers with higher mobility and water affinity appeared more likely to have microbes that could assimilate those oligomers. The researchers then analyzed the big data from the biodegradability study using iCAMP, a tool to quantitatively infer community assembly mechanisms, to determine whether relationships between oligomers and microorganisms are established in a deterministic or stochastic manner. This analysis revealed that microbes that prefer to live on oligomeric surfaces with high mobility and water affinity choose such surfaces in a deterministic manner, while the microbes that inhabit surfaces with moderate mobility and water affinity are determined in a stochastic manner.

When applied to controlling the physiochemical properties of plastic surfaces, these findings will enable microbiomes suitable for each plastic use to live on the plastic surface. Thus, they could help design materials, such as ropes and blocks used in the sea, and contribute to the “Nature Positive” based on growing blue carbon ecosystem.

Original article
Science of the Total Environment doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2024.172401
D. Yokoyama, Y. Tsuboi, H. Abe, R. Nagahata, H. Konno, M. Yoshida, J. Kikuchi,
"Quantification of microbial community assembly processes during degradation on diverse plastispheres based on physicochemical characters and phylogenetic bin-based null model analysis".
Jun Kikuchi
Team Leader
Environmental Metabolic Analysis Research Team