Exposure to different arsenic species drives the establishment of iron- and sulfur-oxidizing bacteria on rice root iron plaques

  • Sarah Zecchin
  • Milena Colombo
  • Lucia CavalcaEmail author
Original Paper


Iron- and sulfur-oxidizing bacteria inhabiting rice rhizoplane play a significant role on arsenic biogeochemistry in flooded rice paddies, influencing arsenic translocation to rice grains. In the present study, the selective pressure of arsenic species on these microbial populations was evaluated. Rice roots from continuously flooded plants were incubated in iron sulfide (FeS) gradient tubes and exposed to either arsenate or arsenite. The biomass developed in the visible iron-oxidation band of the enrichments was analyzed by Scanning Electron Microscopy and Energy-Dispersive Spectroscopy (SEM–EDS) and the bacterial communities were characterized by 16S rRNA gene sequencing. Different Proteobacteria communities were selected depending on exposure to arsenate and arsenite. Arsenate addition favored the versatile iron-oxidizers Dechloromonas and Azospira, associated to putative iron (hydr)oxide crystals. Arsenite exposure decreased the diversity in the enrichments, with the development of the sulfur-oxidizer Thiobacillus thioparus, likely growing on sulfide released by FeS. Whereas sulfur-oxidizers were observed in all treatments, iron-oxidizers disappeared when exposed to arsenite. These results reveal a strong impact of different inorganic arsenics on rhizospheric iron-oxidizers as well as a crucial role of sulfur-oxidizing bacteria in establishing rice rhizosphere communities under arsenic pressure.


Iron-oxidizing bacteria Sulfur-oxidizing bacteria Arsenic Rice rhizosphere Rice iron plaques Gradient tubes 



This work was supported by Ministry of University and Research program PRIN [Grant Number 2010JBNLJ7-004]; Sarah Zecchin was awarded of a PhD fellowship by the University of Milan.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Dipartimento di Scienze per gli Alimenti, la Nutrizione e l’Ambiente (DeFENS)Università degli Studi di MilanoMilanItaly

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