Methylmercury (MeHg), which is formed in rice paddy soil, exhibits strong neurotoxicity through bioaccumulation in the food chain. A few groups of microorganisms drive both mercury methylation and nitrogen fixation in the rhizosphere. Little is known about how the shifted soil microbial community by Hg contamination affects nitrogen fixation rate and plant growth in paddy soil. Here, we examined how stimulated short-term Hg amendment affects the nitrogen fixing microbial community and influences plant-microbe interactions. Soil was treated with low (0.2 mg/kg) and high (1.1 mg/kg) concentrations of Hg for 4 weeks; then, rice (Oryza sativa) was planted and grown for 12 weeks. The nitrogen-fixation rate and rice growth were measured. The diversity and structure of the microbial community were analyzed by sequencing the nifH gene before and after rice cultivation. Hg treatments significantly decreased the nitrogen fixation rate and dry weight of the rice plants. The structure of the nifH-harboring community was remarkably changed after rice cultivation depending on Hg treatments. Iron- or sulfate-reducing bacteria, including Desulfobacca, Desulfoporosimus, and Geobacter, were observed as legacy response groups; their abundances increased in the soil after Hg treatment. The high abundance of those groups were maintained in control, but the abundance drastically decreased after rice cultivation in the soil treated with Hg, indicating that symbiotic behavior of rice plants changes according to the legacy effects on Hg contamination. These results suggested that Hg contamination can persist in soil microbial communities, affecting their nitrogen-fixation ability and symbiosis with rice plants in paddy soil.
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All data generated or analyzed during this study are included in this published article and its supplementary information files. The raw sequence data have been deposited in the NCBI BioProject repository, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/bioproject/PRJNA640989.
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We would like to thank Hoon Je Seong at Chun-Ang University for providing processing sequence data and community analysis.
This work supported by a grant from Strategic Initiative for Microbiomes in Agriculture and Food, Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (Project No. 918014-4) and Korea Ministry of Environment as Subsurface Environment Management Projects (No. 2020002480003).
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare they have no competing interests.
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Hyun, H.R., Yoon, H., Lyou, E.S. et al. Short-Term Legacy Effects of Mercury Contamination on Plant Growth and nifH-Harboring Microbial Community in Rice Paddy Soil. Microb Ecol (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00248-021-01722-x
- Paddy soil
- Nitrogen fixation
- Mercury methylation
- Microbial community