Microbial responses to perfluoroalkyl substances and perfluorooctanesulfonate (PFOS) desulfurization in the Antarctic marine environment

By Elena Cerro-Gálvez, Jose L. Roscales, Begoña Jiménez, M. Montserrat Sala, Jordi Dachs, Maria Vila-Costa
Water Research
December 30, 2019
DOI: 10.1016/j.watres.2019.115434

Perfluorooctanesulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoate (PFOA) acids are ubiquitous in the oceans, including remote regions, and are toxic to fish and mammals. The impact to the lowest trophic levels of the food web, however, remains unknown. We challenged natural bacterial communities inhabiting Antarctic coastal waters (Deception Island) with PFOS and PFOA concentrations ranging from 2 ng/L to 600 ng/L that selected for tolerant taxa. After 48 h, concentrations of PFOS decreased by more than 50% and sulfur metabolism-related genes were significantly enriched in the treatments suggesting desulfurization of PFOS. Conversely, no significant differences were found between initial and final PFOA concentrations. Gammaproteobacteria and Roseobacter, two abundant groups of marine bacteria, increased their relative activity after 24 h of incubation, whereas Flavobacteriia became the main contributor in the treatments after 6 days. Community activities (extracellular enzyme activity and absolute number of transcripts) were higher in the treatments than in the controls, while bacterial abundances were lower in the treatments, suggesting a selection of PFOS and PFOA tolerant community in the exposed treatments. Our results show a direct effect of PFOS and PFOA exposure on the composition and functionality of natural Antarctic marine microbial communities. While no evidence of defluorination of PFOS or PFOA were detected, probable desulfurization of PFOS depicts a direct link with the sulfur biogeochemistry of the ocean.

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