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Prof. Dr. Thomas Schwartz



The impact of the anti‑diabetic drug metformin on the intestinal microbiome of larval brown trout (Salmo trutta f. fario)

The impact of the anti‑diabetic drug metformin on the intestinal microbiome of larval brown trout (Salmo trutta f. fario)

Rogall, E. T. / Jacob, S. / Triebskorn, R. / Schwartz, T. (2020)


Environmental Scienes Europe, 2020, doi.org/10.1186/s12302-020-00341-6

Date: April 2020


Background: The anti-diabetic pharmaceutical metformin is frequently analysed in the aquatic environment. Its
impact on the fish microbiome is studied to get a deeper knowledge about the consequence of the metformin
presence in river systems. Gut microbiome analyses were performed on larval brown trout with metformin including environmental concentrations. Therefore, the fish were exposed to metformin in concentrations of 0, 1, 10, 100, and 1000 μg/L. Especially, the lower metformin concentrations were measured in river waters containing percentages of conditioned wastewater from municipal wastewater treatment plants. Results: Two complementary molecular biological methods for population analysis targeting the 16S rRNA gene regions V1–V3, i.e.: (1) 16S amplicon sequencing and (2) polymerase chain reaction (PCR) combined with denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE). Both analyses demonstrated significant microbiome alterations even at low metformin concentrations being analysed in German rivers. The amplicon sequencing revealed the most distinct shifts in the Firmicutes phylum, or more specifically, within the Bacillales order, which were most affected by metformin exposure. Within the Bacillales order, the Planococcaceae family, which is described to provide essential amino acids for the fish, completely disappeared after metformin treatment. Conversely, the percentage of other bacteria, such as Staphylococcaceae, increased after exposure to metformin. Similarity profiles of the microbiomes could be generated using the Sørensen index calculation after PCR-DGGE analyses and confirmed shifts in the composition of the brown trout intestinal microbiome after metformin exposures. In vitro gene expression analyses of virulence factors from fish pathogens, previously identified in the fish microbiomes DNA extracts, were conducted in the presence or absence of environmentally relevant concentrations. Here, marker genes of Enterococcus faecium, Enterococcus faecalis, and Aeromonas hydrophila were detected and quantified via PCR approaches, firstly. An increased expression of the speciesspecific virulence genes was observed after normalisation with control data and ribosomal housekeeping genes. Conclusion: Environmentally relevant concentrations of metformin can alter the composition in gut microbiome of brown trout in different ways. Both, the metformin-induced expression of virulence genes in fish pathogens in vitro and the impact of metformin on the microbiome composition in vivo in larval brown trout open the discussion about a possible long-term effect on the vitality, growth, and development in more mature brown trouts.