Soil microbial community and abiotic soil properties influence Zn and Cd hyperaccumulation differently in Arabidopsis halleri

Priyanka Kushwaha, Julia W. Neilson, Raina M. Maier, Alicja Babst-Kostecka

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Soil contamination with trace metal(loid) elements (TME) is a global concern. This has focused interest on TME-tolerant plants, some of which can hyperaccumulate extraordinary amounts of TME into above-ground tissues, for potential treatment of these soils. However, intra-species variability in TME hyperaccumulation is not yet sufficiently understood to fully harness this potential. Particularly, little is known about the rhizosphere microbial communities associated with hyperaccumulating plants and whether or not they facilitate TME uptake. The aim of this study is to characterize the diversity and structure of Arabidopsis halleri rhizosphere-influenced and background (i.e., non-Arabidopsis) soil microbial communities in four plant populations with contrasting Zn and Cd hyperaccumulation traits, two each from contaminated and uncontaminated sites. Microbial community properties were assessed along with geographic location, climate, abiotic soil properties, and plant parameters to explain variation in Zn and Cd hyperaccumulation. Site type (TME-contaminated vs. uncontaminated) and location explained 44% of bacterial/archaeal and 28% of fungal community variability. A linear discriminant effect size (LEfSe) analysis identified a greater number of taxa defining rhizosphere microbial communities than associated background soils. Further, in TME-contaminated soils, the number of rhizosphere-defining taxa was 6-fold greater than in the background soils. In contrast, the corresponding ratio for uncontaminated sites, was 3 and 1.6 for bacteria/archaea and fungi, respectively. The variables analyzed explained 71% and 76% of the variance in Zn and Cd hyperaccumulation, respectively; however, each hyperaccumulation pattern was associated with different variables. A. halleri rhizosphere fungal richness and diversity associated most strongly with Zn hyperaccumulation, whereas soil Cd and Zn bioavailability had the strongest associations with Cd hyperaccumulation. Our results indicate strong associations between A. halleri TME hyperaccumulation and rhizosphere microbial community properties, a finding that needs to be further explored to optimize phytoremediation technology that is based on hyperaccumulation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number150006
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - Jan 10 2022


  • Metal accumulation
  • Microbial diversity
  • Plant growth promoting bacteria
  • Pseudometallophyte
  • Soil metal contamination
  • Trace metal(loid) element

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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