Markus Hecker


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Wastewater discharges alter microbial community composition in surface waters of the canadian prairies
Milena Esser, Cameron Hoggarth, Helen M. Baulch, Jonathan K. Challis, Yuwei Xie, John P. Giesy, Markus Hecker, Markus Brinkmann
Chemosphere, Volume 334

Microbial communities are an important component of freshwater biodiversity that is threatened by anthropogenic impacts. Wastewater discharges pose a particular concern by being major sources of anthropogenic contaminants and microorganisms that may influence the composition of natural microbial communities. Nevertheless, the effects of wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) effluents on microbial communities remain largely unexplored. In this study, the effects of wastewater discharges on microbial communities from five different WWTPs in Southern Saskatchewan were investigated using rRNA gene metabarcoding. In parallel, nutrient levels and the presence of environmentally relevant organic pollutants were analyzed. Higher nutrient loads and pollutant concentrations resulted in significant changes in microbial community composition. The greatest changes were observed in Wascana Creek (Regina), which was found to be heavily polluted by wastewater discharges. Several taxa occurred in greater relative abundance in the wastewater-influenced stream segments, indicating anthropogenic pollution and eutrophication, especially taxa belonging to Proteobacteria, Bacteroidota, and Chlorophyta. Strong decreases were measured within the taxa Ciliphora, Diatomea, Dinoflagellata, Nematozoa, Ochrophyta, Protalveolata, and Rotifera. Across all sample types, a significant decline in sulfur bacteria was measured, implying changes in functional biodiversity. In addition, downstream of the Regina WWTP, an increase in cyanotoxins was detected which was correlated with a significant change in cyanobacterial community composition. Overall, these data suggest a causal relationship between anthropogenic pollution and changes in microbial communities, possibly reflecting an impairment of ecosystem health.


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Effects of aqueous fluoxetine exposure on gut microbiome of adult Pimephales promelas
Alana Weber, Yuwei Xie, Jonathan K. Challis, Abigail DeBofsky, Phillip J. Ankley, Markus Hecker, Paul D. Jones, John P. Giesy
Science of The Total Environment, Volume 813

The microbiome of the gut is vital for homeostasis of hosts with its ability to detoxify and activate toxicants, as well as signal to the immune and nervous systems. However, in the field of environmental toxicology, the gut microbiome has only recently been identified as a measurable indicator for exposure to environmental pollutants. Antidepressants found in effluents of wastewater treatment plants and surface waters have been shown to exhibit antibacterial-like properties in vitro, where some bacteria are known to express homologous proteins that bind antidepressants in vertebrates. Therefore, it has been hypothesized that exposure to antidepressant drugs might affect gut microbiota of aquatic organisms. In this study, the common antidepressant, fluoxetine, was investigated to determine whether it can modulate the gut microbiome of adult fathead minnows. A 28-day, sub-chronic, static renewal exposure was performed with nominal fluoxetine concentrations of 0.01, 10 or 100 μg/L. Using 16S rRNA amplicon sequencing, shifts among the gut-associated microbiota were observed in individuals exposed to the greatest concentration, with greater effects observed in females. These changes were associated with a decrease in relative proportions of commensal bacteria, which can be important for health of fish including bacteria essential for fatty acid oxidation, and an increase in relative proportions of pathogenic bacteria associated with inflammation. Results demonstrate, for the first time, how antidepressants found in some aquatic environments can influence gut microbiota of fishes.

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Effects of in situ experimental selenium exposure on finescale dace (Phoxinus neogaeus) gut microbiome
Phillip J. Ankley, Stephanie D. Graves, Yuwei Xie, Abigail DeBofsky, Alana Weber, Markus Brinkmann, Vince Palace, Karsten Liber, Markus Hecker, David M. Janz, John P. Giesy
Environmental Research, Volume 212

Selenium (Se) is an environmental contaminant of global concern that can cause adverse effects in fish at elevated levels. Fish gut microbiome play essential roles in gastrointestinal function and host health and can be perturbed by environmental contaminants, including metals and metalloids. Here, an in-situ Se exposure of female finescale dace (Phoxinus neogaeus) using mesocosms was conducted to determine the impacts of Se accumulation on the gut microbiome and morphometric endpoints. Prior to this study, the gut microbiome of finescale dace, a widespread Cyprinid throughout North America, had not been characterized. Exposure to Se caused a hormetic response of alpha diversity of the gut microbiome, with greater diversity at the lesser concentration of 1.6 μg Se/L, relative to that of fish exposed to the greater concentration of 5.6 μg Se/L. Select gut microbiome taxa of fish were differentially abundant between aqueous exposure concentrations and significantly correlated with liver-somatic index (LSI). The potential effects of gut microbiome dysbiosis on condition of wild fish might be a consideration when assessing adverse effects of Se in aquatic environments. More research regarding effects of Se on field-collected fish gut microbiome and the potential adverse effects or benefits on the host is warranted.

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Exposure to the Tire Rubber-Derived Contaminant 6PPD-Quinone Causes Mitochondrial Dysfunction <i>In Vitro</i>
Hannah Mahoney, Francisco C. da Silva, Catherine Roberts, Matthew Schultz, Xiaowen Ji, Alper James Alcaraz, David W. Montgomery, Summer Selinger, Jonathan K. Challis, John P. Giesy, Lynn P. Weber, David M. Janz, Steve Wiseman, Markus Hecker, Markus Brinkmann
Environmental Science & Technology Letters, Volume 9, Issue 9


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Metals and PFAS in stormwater and surface runoff in a semi-arid Canadian city subject to large variations in temperature among seasons
Garry Codling, Hongda Yuan, Paul D. Jones, John P. Giesy, Markus Hecker
Environmental Science and Pollution Research, Volume 27, Issue 15

Because compounds accumulate through dry periods and enter aquatic systems in just a few seasonal events such as snowmelt and summer storms, surface waters in semi-arid, cold regions, such as the Canadian Prairies, are particularly vulnerable to loading of contaminant from runoff events from surfaces. This study assessed concentrations of metals and selected trace organics entering a river via surface runoff from an urban region and how these semi-arid regions with large seasonal variations in temperature might differ from more temperate regions. Selected potentially harmful elements (PHEs) including, Mn with Cr, Cu, Zn, Ba and U all exceeded guideline discharge values set by the Canadian Council of the Ministers of the Environment (CCME) by as much as 16-fold. Variation among discharges during spring, summer and winter was observed. For example, across the whole city, an estimated 6 kg of zinc was discharged in a spring storm, 36 kg in a summer storm and 17 tonnes in snowmelt. The mass of Zn discharged is similar to the annual loading estimated for Stockholm, Sweden, but in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada, the bulk of runoff was during snowmelt. The mean sum of poly- and per-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in stormwater was 9.0 ng L−1, which is consistent with concentrations observed in other Canadian cities (6.5–16 ng L−1). These concentrations of PFAS are likely due to dispersed sources and orders of magnitude less than thresholds for toxicity to fish and aquatic invertebrates.

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Differential responses of gut microbiota of male and female fathead minnow (Pimephales promelas) to a short-term environmentally-relevant, aqueous exposure to benzo[a]pyrene
Abigail DeBofsky, Yuwei Xie, Chelsea Grimard, Alper James Alcaraz, Markus Brinkmann, Markus Hecker, John P. Giesy
Chemosphere, Volume 252

In addition to aiding in digestion of food and uptake of nutrients, microbiota in guts of vertebrates are responsible for regulating several beneficial functions, including development of an organism and maintaining homeostasis. However, little is known about effects of exposures to chemicals on structure and function of gut microbiota of fishes. To assess effects of exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) on gut microbiota, male and female fathead minnows ( Pimephales promelas ) were exposed to environmentally-relevant concentrations of the legacy PAH benzo[ a ]pyrene (BaP) in water. Measured concentrations of BaP ranged from 2.3 × 10 −3 to 1.3 μg L −1 . The community of microbiota in the gut were assessed by use of 16S rRNA metagenetics. Exposure to environmentally-relevant aqueous concentrations of BaP did not alter expression levels of mRNA for cyp1a1 , a “classic” biomarker of exposure to BaP, but resulted in shifts in relative compositions of gut microbiota in females rather than males. Results presented here illustrate that in addition to effects on more well-studied molecular endpoints, relative compositions of the microbiota in guts of fish can also quickly respond to exposure to chemicals, which can provide additional mechanisms for adverse effects on individuals. • Female and male fathead minnows exhibited significantly different gut microbiota. • Exposure to BaP altered structures in female gut microbiota, but not in males. • Exposure to BaP altered predicted functions in gut microbiota of fathead minnow. • Gut microbiome was more sensitive to a low dose BaP than host’s ahr1 and cyp1a1.

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In vitro-in vivo and cross-life stage extrapolation of uptake and biotransformation of benzo[a]pyrene in the fathead minnow (Pimephales promelas)
Chelsea Grimard, Annika Mangold-Döring, Markus Schmitz, Hattan A. Alharbi, Paul D. Jones, John P. Giesy, Markus Hecker, Markus Brinkmann
Aquatic Toxicology, Volume 228

• A concentration dependent increase of B[ a ]P metabolites was observed • No induction of phase I or II activity was observed with increasing B[ a ]P exposure • Biotransformation of B[ a ]P was successfully implemented into in silico models • The models accurately predicted life stage-specific abundances of B[ a ]P metabolites Understanding internal dose metrics is integral to adequately assess effects environmental contaminants might have on aquatic wildlife, including fish. In silico toxicokinetic (TK) models are a leading approach for quantifying internal exposure metrics for fishes; however, they often do not adequately consider chemicals that are actively biotransformed and have not been validated against early-life stages (ELS) that are often considered the most sensitive to the exposure to contaminants. To address these uncertainties, TK models were parameterized for the rapidly biotransformed chemical benzo[ a ]pyrene (B[ a ]P) in embryo-larval and adult life stages of fathead minnows. Biotransformation of B[ a ]P was determined through measurements of in vitro clearance. Using in vitro-in vivo extrapolation, in vitro clearance was integrated into a multi-compartment TK model for adult fish and a one-compartment model for ELS. Model predictions were validated using measurements of B[ a ]P metabolites from in vivo flow-through exposures to graded concentrations of water-borne B[ a ]P. Significantly greater amounts of B[ a ]P metabolites were observed with exposure to greater concentrations of parent compound in both life stages. However, when assessing biotransformation capacity, no differences in phase I or phase II biotransformation were observed with greater exposures to B[ a ]P. Results of modelling suggested that biotransformation of B[ a ]P can be successfully implemented into in silico models to accurately predict life stage-specific abundances of B[ a ]P metabolites in either whole-body larvae or the bile of adult fish. Models developed increase the scope of applications in which TK models can be used to support environmental risk assessments.

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Mechanisms of pH-Dependent Uptake of Ionizable Organic Chemicals by Fish from Oil Sands Process-Affected Water (OSPW)
Markus Brinkmann, Hattan A. Alharbi, Ulyana Fuchylo, Steve Wiseman, Garrett Morandi, Hui Peng, John P. Giesy, Paul D. Jones, Markus Hecker
Environmental Science & Technology, Volume 54, Issue 15

Uptake and effects of ionizable organic chemicals (IOCs) that are weak acids in aqueous solution by fish can differ as a function of pH. While the pH-dependent behavior of select IOCs is well-understood, complex mixtures of IOCs, e.g., from oil sands process-affected water (OSPW), have not yet been studied systematically. Here, we established an in vitro screening method using the rainbow trout gill cell line, RTgill-W1, to investigate pH-dependent cytotoxicity and permeation of IOCs across cultured epithelia using ultra-high-performance liquid chromatography with high-resolution mass spectrometry (UPLC-HRMS). The assay was benchmarked using model chemicals and technical mixtures, and then used to characterize fractions and reconstituted extracts of field-collected OSPW. Significant pH-dependent cytotoxicity of individual IOCs, acidic fractions, and reconstituted extracts of OSPW was observed. In vitro data were in good agreement with data from a 96 h in vivo exposure experiment with juvenile rainbow trout. Permeation of some IOCs from OSPW was mediated by active transport, as revealed by studies in which inhibitors of these active transport mechanisms were applied. We conclude that the RTgill-W1 in vitro assay is useful for the screening of pH-dependent uptake of IOCs in fish, and has applications for in vitro-in vivo extrapolation, and prioritization of chemicals in nontarget screenings.


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Selenium oxyanion bioconcentration in natural freshwater periphyton
Blue E. Markwart, Karsten Liber, Yuwei Xie, Katherine Raes, Markus Hecker, David M. Janz, Lorne E. Doig
Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety, Volume 180

Selenium (Se) enrichment has been demonstrated to vary by several orders of magnitude among species of planktonic algae. This is a substantial source of uncertainty when modelling Se biodynamics in aquatic systems. In addition, Se bioconcentration data are largely lacking for periphytic species of algae, and for multi-species periphyton biofilms, adding to the challenge of modelling Se transfer in periphyton-based food webs. To better predict Se dynamics in periphyton dominated, freshwater ecosystems, the goal of this study was to assess the relative influence of periphyton community composition on the uptake of waterborne Se oxyanions. Naturally grown freshwater periphyton communities, sampled from five different water bodies, were exposed to environmentally relevant concentrations of selenite [Se(IV)] or selenate [Se(VI)] (nominal concentrations of 5 and 25 μg Se L-1) under similar, controlled laboratory conditions for a period of 8 days. Unique periphyton assemblages were derived from the five different field sites, as confirmed by light microscopy and targeted DNA sequencing of the plastid 23S rRNA gene in algae. Selenium accumulation demonstrated a maximum of 23.6-fold difference for Se(IV) enrichment and 2.1-fold difference for Se(VI) enrichment across the periphyton/biofilm assemblages tested. The assemblage from one field site demonstrated both high accumulation of Se(IV) and iron, and was subjected to additional experimentation to elucidate the mechanism(s) of Se accumulation. Selenite accumulation (at nominal concentrations of 5 and 25 μg Se L-1 and mean pH of 7.5 across all treatment replicates) was assessed in both unaltered and heat-killed periphyton, and in periphyton from the same site grown without light to exclude phototrophic organisms. Following an exposure length of 8 days, all periphyton treatments showed similar levels of Se accumulation, indicating that much of the apparent uptake of Se(IV) was due to non-biological processes (i.e., surface adsorption). The results of this study will help reduce uncertainty in the prediction of Se dynamics and food-chain transfer in freshwater environments. Further exploration of the ecological consequences of extracellular adsorption of Se(IV) to periphyton, rather than intracellular absorption, is recommended to further refine predictions related to Se biodynamics in freshwater food webs.

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Acid mine drainage affects the diversity and metal resistance gene profile of sediment bacterial community along a river
Xiaohui Zhang, Song Tang, Mao Wang, Weimin Sun, Yuwei Xie, Hui Peng, Aimin Zhong, Hongling Liu, Xiaowei Zhang, Yu H, John P. Giesy, Markus Hecker
Chemosphere, Volume 217

Acid mine drainage (AMD) is one of the most hazardous byproducts of some types of mining. However, research on how AMD affects the bacterial community structure of downstream riverine ecosystems and the distribution of metal resistance genes (MRGs) along pollution gradient is limited. Comprehensive geochemical and high-throughput next-generation sequencing analyses can be integrated to characterize spatial distributions and MRG profiles of sediment bacteria communities along the AMD-contaminated Hengshi River. We found that (1) diversities of bacterial communities significantly and gradually increased along the river with decreasing contamination, suggesting community composition reflected changes in geochemical conditions; (2) relative abundances of phyla Proteobacteria and genus Halomonas and Planococcaceae that function in metal reduction decreased along the AMD gradient; (3) low levels of sediment salinity, sulfate, aquatic lead (Pb), and cadmium (Cd) were negatively correlated with bacterial diversity despite pH was in a positive manner with diversity; and (4) arsenic (As) and copper (Cu) resistance genes corresponded to sediment concentrations of As and Cu, respectively. Altogether, our findings offer initial insight into the distribution patterns of sediment bacterial community structure, diversity and MRGs along a lotic ecosystem contaminated by AMD, and the factors that affect them.