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Front Microbiol. 2017 Aug 11;8:1506. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2017.01506. eCollection 2017.

Seasonal Analysis of Microbial Communities in Precipitation in the Greater Tokyo Area, Japan.

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Department of Computational Biology and Medical Sciences, Graduate School of Frontier Sciences, The University of TokyoChiba, Japan.
Atmosphere and Ocean Research Institute, The University of TokyoChiba, Japan.
Department of Biological Sciences, Graduate School of Science, The University of TokyoTokyo, Japan.


The presence of microbes in the atmosphere and their transport over long distances across the Earth's surface was recently shown. Precipitation is likely a major path by which aerial microbes fall to the ground surface, affecting its microbial ecosystems and introducing pathogenic microbes. Understanding microbial communities in precipitation is of multidisciplinary interest from the perspectives of microbial ecology and public health; however, community-wide and seasonal analyses have not been conducted. Here, we carried out 16S rRNA amplicon sequencing of 30 precipitation samples that were aseptically collected over 1 year in the Greater Tokyo Area, Japan. The precipitation microbial communities were dominated by Proteobacteria, Firmicutes, Bacteroidetes, and Actinobacteria and were overall consistent with those previously reported in atmospheric aerosols and cloud water. Seasonal variations in composition were observed; specifically, Proteobacteria abundance significantly decreased from summer to winter. Notably, estimated ordinary habitats of precipitation microbes were dominated by animal-associated, soil-related, and marine-related environments, and reasonably consistent with estimated air mass backward trajectories. To our knowledge, this is the first amplicon-sequencing study investigating precipitation microbial communities involving sampling over the duration of a year.


habitat estimation; ice nucleation activity; long-distance transportation; microbial ecology; precipitation

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