Research Article: Metagenomic Analysis of Airborne Bacterial Community and Diversity in Seoul, Korea, during December 2014, Asian Dust Event

Date Published: January 25, 2017

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): Seho Cha, Sathiyaraj Srinivasan, Jun Hyeong Jang, Dongwook Lee, Sora Lim, Kyung Sang Kim, Weonhwa Jheong, Dong-Won Lee, Eung-Roh Park, Hyun-Mi Chung, Joonho Choe, Myung Kyum Kim, Taegun Seo, Emmanuel Dias-Neto.


Asian dust or yellow sand events in East Asia are a major issue of environmental contamination and human health, causing increasing concern. A high amount of dust particles, especially called as particulate matter 10 (PM10), is transported by the wind from the arid and semi-arid tracks to the Korean peninsula, bringing a bacterial population that alters the terrestrial and atmospheric microbial communities. In this study, we aimed to explore the bacterial populations of Asian dust samples collected during November–December 2014. The dust samples were collected using the impinger method, and the hypervariable regions of the 16S rRNA gene were amplified using PCR followed by pyrosequencing. Analysis of the sequencing data were performed using Mothur software. The data showed that the number of operational taxonomic units and diversity index during Asian dust events were higher than those during non-Asian dust events. At the phylum level, the proportions of Proteobacteria, Actinobacteria, and Firmicutes were different between Asian dust and non-Asian dust samples. At the genus level, the proportions of the genus Bacillus (6.9%), Arthrobacter (3.6%), Blastocatella (2%), Planomicrobium (1.4%) were increased during Asian dust compared to those in non-Asian dust samples. This study showed that the significant relationship between bacterial populations of Asian dust samples and non-Asian dust samples in Korea, which could significantly affect the microbial population in the environment.

Partial Text

Asian dust events in East Asia, including Korea and Japan, are a seasonal phenomenon, mostly in the early spring that influences the airborne environment and human health problems [1–3]. Asian dust is known to originate from several arid regions of China, including the Gobi desert and the Taklamakan desert, and the dust particles affect the surrounding countries, including China, Japan, and Korea [4–6], as well as Greenland and North America through the global transport of Asian dust particles [7–9]. Moreover, Asian dust events have increased from 77 days containing 8 days during winter (Dovember to February) in 1990s to 122 days containing 21 days during winter in 2000s (Korea meteorological administrate, KMA).

In this study, we characterized the airborne bacterial community during Asian dust and non-Asian dust events from November to December 2014. As a result, we found that the diversity of the airborne bacterial environment was increased by newly transported dust particles, which contain various microorganisms, during the Asian dust event, leading to a decrement of the proportion of the predominant bacteria in the airborne environment. During the Asian dust event on December 2014, the proportion of predominantly presented phylum Proteobacteria was significantly reduced compared to the non-Asian dust event in November and December 2014. Meanwhile, phyla Actinobacteria and Firmicutes, especially genera Bacillus, Arthrobacter, and Planomicrobium, were newly introduced with dust particles. In addition, although the proportion was comparatively lower than the microorganisms mentioned above, various microorganisms were also transported during the Asian dust event. Indeed, the small proportion of newly transported microorganisms cannot be disregarded because the total amount (16S rRNA gene copy number) of microorganisms was dramatically increased (several hundreds to thousands) in the airborne environment during the Asian dust event [33]. In a further study, continuous monitoring of Asian dust and non-Asian dust event particles should be performed to determine the biological characterization of Asian dust particles. Moreover, various environmental effects, including soil environment, human health, and industrial problems, affected by the precipitated microorganisms should also be evaluated.




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