1887

Abstract

Plastics are inexpensive and widely used organic polymers, but their high durability hinders biodegradation. Polystyrene, including extruded polystyrene (also known as styrofoam), is among the most commonly produced plastics worldwide and is recalcitrant to microbial degradation. In this study, we assessed changes in the gut microbiome of superworms () reared on bran, polystyrene or under starvation conditions over a 3 weeks period. Superworms on all diets were able to complete their life cycle to pupae and imago, although superworms reared on polystyrene had minimal weight gains, resulting in lower pupation rates compared to bran reared worms. The change in microbial gut communities from baseline differed considerably between diet groups, with polystyrene and starvation groups characterized by a loss of microbial diversity and the presence of opportunistic pathogens. Inferred microbial functions enriched in the polystyrene group included transposon movements, membrane restructuring and adaptations to oxidative stress. We detected several encoded enzymes with reported polystyrene and styrene degradation abilities, supporting previous reports of polystyrene-degrading bacteria in the superworm gut. By recovering metagenome-assembled genomes (MAGs) we linked phylogeny and functions and identified genera including , and that possess genes associated with polystyrene degradation. In conclusion, our results provide the first metagenomic insights into the metabolic pathways used by the gut microbiome of superworms to degrade polystyrene. Our results also confirm that superworms can survive on polystyrene feed, but this diet has considerable negative impacts on host gut microbiome diversity and health.

Funding
This study was supported by the:
  • Australian Research Council (Award FT170100213)
    • Principle Award Recipient: RinkeChristian
  • This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial License. This article was made open access via a Publish and Read agreement between the Microbiology Society and the corresponding author’s institution.
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2022-06-09
2022-06-28
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