Geochemical influences and mercury methylation of a dental wastewater microbiome

Asha Rani, Karl J. Rockne*, James Drummond, Muntasar Al-Hinai, Ravi Ranjan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


The microbiome of dental clinic wastewater and its impact on mercury methylation remains largely unknown. Waste generated during dental procedures enters the sewer system and contributes a significant fraction of the total mercury (tHg) and methyl mercury (MeHg) load to wastewater treatment facilities. Investigating the influence of geochemical factors and microbiome structure is a critical step linking the methylating microorganisms in dental wastewater (DWW) ecosystems. DWW samples from a dental clinic were collected over eight weeks and analyzed for geochemical parameters, tHg, MeHg and bacterio-toxic heavy metals. We employed bacterial fingerprinting and pyrosequencing for microbiome analysis. High concentrations of tHg, MeHg and heavy metals were detected in DWW. The microbiome was dominated by Proteobacteria, Actinobacteria, Bacteroidetes, Chloroflexi and many unclassified bacteria. Significant correlations were found between the bacterial community, Hg levels and geochemical factors including pH and the predicted total amount (not fraction) of neutral Hg-sulfide species. The most prevalent known methylators included Desulfobulbus propionicus, Desulfovibrio desulfuricans, Desulfovibrio magneticus and Geobacter sulfurreducens. This study is the first to investigate the impact of high loads of Hg, MeHg and other heavy metals on the dental clinic wastewater microbiome, and illuminates the role of many known and unknown sulfate-reducing bacteria in Hg methylation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number12872
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - Aug 14 2015
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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