Influence of Environmental Stressors on the Microbiota of Zebra Mussels (Dreissena polymorpha)

Prince P. Mathai, Jonathan H. Bertram, Soumesh K. Padhi, Vikash Singh, Isaiah E. Tolo, Alexander Primus, Sunil K. Mor, Nicholas B.D. Phelps, Michael J. Sadowsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Host-associated microbiota play a critical role in host fitness by providing nutrition, enhancing digestion capabilities, and by providing protection from pathogens. Here, we investigated the effects of two environmental stressors, temperature, and salinity, on the microbiota associated with zebra mussels (ZMs), a highly invasive bivalve in North America. To examine this in detail, lake-collected ZMs were acclimated to laboratory conditions, and subjected to temperature and salinity stress conditions. The impact of these stressors on the diversity, composition, and dynamics of ZM-associated microbiota were assessed by using amplicon- and shotgun-based sequencing, and qPCR-based approaches. Elevated temperature was found to be the primary driver of ZM mortality, although salinity alone also increased its likelihood. Stressor-induced ZM mortality, which ranged between 53 and 100%, was concomitant with significant increases in the relative abundance of several genera of putative opportunistic pathogens including Aeromonas. These genera were only present in low relative abundance in ZMs obtained from the control tank with 0% mortality. Shotgun sequencing and qPCR analyses indicated that the relative and absolute abundances of pathogenic Aeromonas species (particularly A. veronii) were significantly greater in temperature-induced dead ZMs. Taken together, our results show that environmental stress, especially elevated temperature (> 25 °C), is associated with the rapid mortality of ZMs as well as the proliferation of putative opportunistic bacterial pathogens.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1042-1053
Number of pages12
JournalMicrobial ecology
Issue number4
Early online dateNov 26 2020
StatePublished - Nov 26 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding for this study was provided by the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center, through the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund, as recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources, and by the Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020, The Author(s).

Copyright 2020 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Invasive species
  • Microbial communities
  • Pathogens
  • Salinity
  • Stress
  • Temperature
  • Zebra mussels

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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