Trade-off for survival: Microbiome response to chemical exposure combines activation of intrinsic resistances and adapted metabolic activity

Wisnu Adi Wicaksono*, Maria Braun, Jörg Bernhardt, Katharina Riedel, Tomislav Cernava*, Gabriele Berg*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The environmental microbiota is increasingly exposed to chemical pollution. While the emergence of multi-resistant pathogens is recognized as a global challenge, our understanding of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) development from native microbiomes and the risks associated with chemical exposure is limited. By implementing a lichen as a bioindicator organism and model for a native microbiome, we systematically examined responses towards antimicrobials (colistin, tetracycline, glyphosate, and alkylpyrazine). Despite an unexpectedly high resilience, we identified potential evolutionary consequences of chemical exposure in terms of composition and functioning of native bacterial communities. Major shifts in bacterial composition were observed due to replacement of naturally abundant taxa; e.g. Chthoniobacterales by Pseudomonadales. A general response, which comprised activation of intrinsic resistance and parallel reduction of metabolic activity at RNA and protein levels was deciphered by a multi-omics approach. Targeted analyses of key taxa based on metagenome-assembled genomes reflected these responses but also revealed diversified strategies of their players. Chemical-specific responses were also observed, e.g., glyphosate enriched bacterial r-strategists and activated distinct ARGs. Our work demonstrates that the high resilience of the native microbiota toward antimicrobial exposure is not only explained by the presence of antibiotic resistance genes but also adapted metabolic activity as a trade-off for survival. Moreover, our results highlight the importance of native microbiomes as important but so far neglected AMR reservoirs. We expect that this phenomenon is representative for a wide range of environmental microbiota exposed to chemicals that potentially contribute to the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria from natural environments
Original languageEnglish
Article number107474
Number of pages13
JournalEnvironment International
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science(all)


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