Subsurface environments often contain mixtures of contaminants in which the microbial degradation of one pollutant may be inhibited by the toxicity of another. Agricultural settings exemplify these complex environments, where antimicrobial leachates may inhibit nitrate bioreduction, and are the motivation to address this fundamental ecological response. In this study, a microfluidic reactor was fabricated to create diffusion-controlled concentration gradients of nitrate and ciprofloxacin under anoxic conditions in order to evaluate the ability of Shewanella oneidenisis MR-1 to reduce the former in the presence of the latter. Results show a surprising ecological response, where swimming motility allow S. oneidensis MR-1 to accumulate and maintain metabolic activity for nitrate reduction in regions with toxic ciprofloxacin concentrations (i.e., 50× minimum inhibitory concentration, MIC), despite the lack of observed antibiotic resistance. Controls with limited nutrient flux and a nonmotile mutant (Δflag) show that cells cannot colonize antibiotic rich microenvironments, and this results in minimal metabolic activity for nitrate reduction. These results demonstrate that under anoxic, nitrate-reducing conditions, motility can control microbial habitability and metabolic activity in spatially heterogeneous toxic environments.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Environmental Chemistry