Identification of plastic-associated species in the Mediterranean Sea using DNA metabarcoding with Nanopore MinION

Keren Davidov, Evgenia Iankelevich-Kounio, Iryna Yakovenko, Yuri Koucherov, Maxim Rubin-Blum, Matan Oren

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50 Scopus citations


Plastic debris in the ocean form a new ecosystem, termed ‘plastisphere’, which hosts a variety of marine organisms. Recent studies implemented DNA metabarcoding to characterize the taxonomic composition of the plastisphere in different areas of the world. In this study, we used a modified metabarcoding approach which was based on longer barcode sequences for the characterization of the plastisphere biota. We compared the microbiome of polyethylene food bags after 1 month at sea to the free-living biome in two proximal but environmentally different locations on the Mediterranean coast of Israel. We targeted the full 1.5 kb-long 16S rRNA gene for bacteria and 0.4–0.8 kb-long regions within the 18S rRNA, ITS, tufA and COI loci for eukaryotes. The taxonomic barcodes were sequenced using Oxford Nanopore Technology with multiplexing on a single MinION flow cell. We identified between 1249 and 2141 species in each of the plastic samples, of which 61 species (34 bacteria and 27 eukaryotes) were categorized as plastic-specific, including species that belong to known hydrocarbon-degrading genera. In addition to a large prokaryotes repertoire, our results, supported by scanning electron microscopy, depict a surprisingly high biodiversity of eukaryotes within the plastisphere with a dominant presence of diatoms as well as other protists, algae and fungi.

Original languageEnglish
Article number17533
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2020


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