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Environmental radiation alters the gut microbiome of the bank vole Myodes glareolus.


Gut microbiota composition depends on many factors, although the impact of environmental pollution is largely unknown. We used amplicon sequencing of bacterial 16S rRNA genes to quantify whether anthropogenic radionuclides at Chernobyl (Ukraine) impact the gut microbiome of the bank vole Myodes glareolus. Exposure to elevated levels of environmental radionuclides had no detectable effect on the gut community richness but was associated with an almost two-fold increase in the Firmicutes:Bacteroidetes ratio. Animals inhabiting uncontaminated areas had remarkably similar gut communities irrespective of their proximity to the nuclear power plant. Hence, samples could be classified to high-radiation or low-radiation sites based solely on microbial community with >90% accuracy. Radiation-associated bacteria had distinct inferred functional profiles, including pathways involved in degradation, assimilation and transport of carbohydrates, xenobiotics biodegradation, and DNA repair. Our results suggest that exposure to environmental radionuclides significantly alters vertebrate gut microbiota.

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