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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2011 Nov;77(21):7611-9. doi: 10.1128/AEM.06102-11. Epub 2011 Sep 2.

Effect of genetically modified poplars on soil microbial communities during the phytoremediation of waste mine tailings.

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  • 1Biosafety Research Team, Environmental Health Research Department, National Institute of Environmental Research, Incheon 404-708, Republic of Korea.


The application of transgenic plants to clean up environmental pollution caused by the wastes of heavy metal mining is a promising method for removing metal pollutants from soils. However, the effect of using genetically modified organisms for phytoremediation is a poorly researched topic in terms of microbial community structures, despite the important role of microorganisms in the health of soil. In this study, a comparative analysis of the bacterial and archaeal communities found in the rhizosphere of genetically modified (GM) versus wild-type (WT) poplar was conducted on trees at different growth stages (i.e., the rhizospheres of 1.5-, 2.5-, and 3-year-old poplars) that were cultivated on contaminated soils together with nonplanted control soil. Based on the results of DNA pyrosequencing, poplar type and growth stages were associated with directional changes in the structure of the microbial community. The rate of change was faster in GM poplars than in WT poplars, but the microbial communities were identical in the 3-year-old poplars. This phenomenon may arise because of a higher rate and greater extent of metal accumulation in GM poplars than in naturally occurring plants, which resulted in greater changes in soil environments and hence the microbial habitat.

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