Effect of co-contamination by pahs and heavy metals on bacterial communities of diesel contaminated soils of south shetland islands, antarctica

A. Gran-Scheuch, J. Ramos-Zuñiga, E. Fuentes, D. Bravo, J.M. Pérez-Donoso

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


© 2020 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.Diesel oil is the main source of energy used in Antarctica. Since diesel is composed of toxic compounds such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and heavy metals, it represents a constant threat to the organisms inhabiting this continent. In the present study, we characterized the chemical and biological parameters of diesel-exposed soils obtained from King George Island in Antarctica. Contaminated soils present PAH concentrations 1000 times higher than non-exposed soils. Some contaminated soil samples also exhibited high concentrations of cadmium and lead. A 16S metagenome analysis revealed the effect of co-contamination on bacterial communities. An increase in the relative abundance of bacteria known as PAH degraders or metal resistant was determined in co-contaminated soils. Accordingly, the soil containing higher amounts of PAHs exhibited increased dehydrogenase activity than control soils, suggesting that the microorganisms present can metabolize diesel. The inhibitory effect on soil metabolism produced by cadmium was lower in diesel-contaminated soils. Moreover, diesel-contaminated soils contain higher amounts of cultivable heterotrophic, cadmium-tolerant, and PAH-degrading bacteria than control soils. Obtained results indicate that diesel contamination at King George island has affected microbial communities, favoring the presence of microorganisms capable of utilizing PAHs as a carbon source, even in the presence of heavy metals.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1749
Pages (from-to)1-17
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2020
Externally publishedYes


Funding: This research was funded by Fondecyt 1200870 (J.M.P.), INACH MT-05_13 (A.G.S.) and INACH RT-25-16 (J.M.P.). A fellowship from CONICYT (Comisión Nacional de Investigación Científica y Tecnológica) to A.G.S. is also acknowledged. Acknowledgments: This work was supported by Erika Elcira Donoso Lopez. In the loving memory of Claudio Vásquez Guzmán, an excellent friend, mentor, and scientist, but a better human being. Thanks for all the adventures and for showing us the beauty of science and friendship.

FundersFunder number
Erika Elcira Donoso Lopez
INACH MT-05_13INACH RT-25-16
Comisión Nacional de Investigación Científica y Tecnológica
Fondo Nacional de Desarrollo Científico y Tecnológico1200870


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