Modeling microbial communities from atrazine contaminated soils promotes the development of biostimulation solutions

Xihui Xu, Raphy Zarecki, Shlomit Medina, Shany Ofaim, Xiaowei Liu, Chen Chen, Shunli Hu, Dan Brom, Daniella Gat, Seema Porob, Hanan Eizenberg, Zeev Ronen, Jiandong Jiang, Shiri Freilich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


Microbial communities play a vital role in biogeochemical cycles, allowing the biodegradation of a wide range of pollutants. The composition of the community and the interactions between its members affect degradation rate and determine the identity of the final products. Here, we demonstrate the application of sequencing technologies and metabolic modeling approaches towards enhancing biodegradation of atrazine—a herbicide causing environmental pollution. Treatment of agriculture soil with atrazine is shown to induce significant changes in community structure and functional performances. Genome-scale metabolic models were constructed for Arthrobacter, the atrazine degrader, and four other non-atrazine degrading species whose relative abundance in soil was changed following exposure to the herbicide. By modeling community function we show that consortia including the direct degrader and non-degrader differentially abundant species perform better than Arthrobacter alone. Simulations predict that growth/degradation enhancement is derived by metabolic exchanges between community members. Based on simulations we designed endogenous consortia optimized for enhanced degradation whose performances were validated in vitro and biostimulation strategies that were tested in pot experiments. Overall, our analysis demonstrates that understanding community function in its wider context, beyond the single direct degrader perspective, promotes the design of biostimulation strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)494-508
Number of pages15
JournalISME Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2019


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