Response of microbial communities and interactions to thallium in contaminated sediments near a pyrite mining area

Juan Liu, Meiling Yin, Weilong Zhang, Daniel C.W. Tsang, Xudong Wei, Yuting Zhou, Tangfu Xiao, Jin Wang, Xinjiao Dong, Yubing Sun, Yongheng Chen, Hui Li, Liping Hou

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

71 Citations (Scopus)


Thallium (Tl) is a well-recognized hazardous heavy metal with very high toxicity. It is usually concentrated in sulfide minerals, such as pyrite (FeS2), sphalerite (ZnS), chalcopyrite (CuS) and galena (PbS). Here, this study was carried out to investigate the indigenous microbial communities via 16S rRNA gene sequence analysis in typical surface sediments with various levels of Tl pollution (1.8–16.1 mg/kg) due to acid mine drainage from an active Tl-containing pyrite mining site in South China. It was found with more than 50 phyla from the domain Bacteria and 1 phyla from the domain Archaea. Sequences assigned to the genera Ferroplasma, Leptospirillum, Ferrovum, Metallibacterium, Acidithiobacillus, and Sulfuriferula manifested high relative abundances in all sequencing libraries from the relatively high Tl contamination. Canonical correspondence analysis further uncovered that the overall microbial community in this area was dominantly structured by the geochemical fractionation of Tl and geochemical parameters such as pH and Eh. Spearman's rank correlation analysis indicated a strong positive correlation between acidophilic Fe-metabolizing species and Tltotal, Tloxi, and Tlres. The findings clarify potential roles of such phylotypes in the biogeochemical cycling of Tl, which may facilitate the development of in-situ bioremediation technology for Tl-contaminated sediments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)916-928
Number of pages13
JournalEnvironmental Pollution
Publication statusPublished - May 2019


  • Spatial distribution
  • Fe-metabolizing bacteria
  • High-throughput sequencing
  • Thallium pollution

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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