Skip to main content
SLU publication database (SLUpub)
Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2021

Low-level environmental metal pollution is associated with altered gut microbiota of a wild rodent, the bank vole (Myodes glareolus)

Brila, Ilze; Lavrinienko, Anton; Tukalenko, Eugene; Ecke, Frauke; Rodushkin, Ilia; Kallio, Eva R.; Mappes, Tapio; Watts, Phillip C.


Mining and related industries are a major source of metal pollution. In contrast to the well-studied effects of ex-posure to metals on animal physiology and health, the impacts of environmental metal pollution on the gut mi-crobiota of wild animals are virtually unknown. As the gut microbiota is a key component of host health, it is important to understand whether metal pollution can alter wild animal gut microbiota composition. Using a combination of 16S rRNA amplicon sequencing and quantification of metal levels in kidneys, we assessed whether multi-metal exposure (the sum of normalized levels of fifteen metals) was associated with changes in gut microbiota of wild bank voles (Myodes glareolus) from two locations in Finland. Exposure to increased metal load was associated with higher gut microbiota species diversity (alpha-diversity) and altered community composition (beta-diversity), but not dispersion. Multi-metal exposure and increased levels of several metals (Cd, Hg, Pb and Se) were associated with differences in the abundance of microbial taxa, especially those within the families Clostridiales vadinBB60 group, Desulfovibrionaceae, Lachnospiraceae, Muribaculaceae and Ruminococcaceae. Our data indicate that even low-level metal pollution can affect the diversity of microbiota and be associated with deterministic differences in composition of host gut microbiota in wild animal populations. These findings highlight the need to study a broader range of metals and their cocktails that are more representative of the types of environmental exposure experienced by wild animals. (c) 2021 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (http://


Metals; Metal pollution; Microbiome; Environmental pollution; Gut microbiota; Wild animal microbiome

Published in

Science of the Total Environment
2021, Volume: 790, article number: 148224
Publisher: ELSEVIER