Application of Ion Torrent Sequencing to the Assessment of the Effect of Alkali Ballast Water Treatment on Microbial Community Diversity
The impact of NaOH as a ballast water treatment (BWT) on microbial community diversity was assessed using the 16S rRNA gene based Ion Torrent sequencing with its new 400 base chemistry. Ballast water samples from a Great Lakes ship were collected from the intake and discharge of both control and NaOH (pH 12) treated tanks and were analyzed in duplicates. One set of duplicates was treated with the membrane-impermeable DNA cross-linking reagent propidium mono-azide (PMA) prior to PCR amplification to differentiate between live and dead microorganisms. Ion Torrent sequencing generated nearly 580,000 reads for 31 bar-coded samples and revealed alterations of the microbial community structure in ballast water that had been treated with NaOH. Rarefaction analysis of the Ion Torrent sequencing data showed that BWT using NaOH significantly decreased microbial community diversity relative to control discharge (p<0.001). UniFrac distance based principal coordinate analysis (PCoA) plots and UPGMA tree analysis revealed that NaOH-treated ballast water microbial communities differed from both intake communities and control discharge communities. After NaOH treatment, bacteria from the genus Alishewanella became dominant in the NaOH-treated samples, accounting for <0.5% of the total reads in intake samples but more than 50% of the reads in the treated discharge samples. The only apparent difference in microbial community structure between PMA-processed and non-PMA samples occurred in intake water samples, which exhibited a significantly higher amount of PMA-sensitive cyanobacteria/chloroplast 16S rRNA than their corresponding non-PMA total DNA samples. The community assembly obtained using Ion Torrent sequencing was comparable to that obtained from a subset of samples that were also subjected to 454 pyrosequencing. This study showed the efficacy of alkali ballast water treatment in reducing ballast water microbial diversity and demonstrated the application of new Ion Torrent sequencing techniques to microbial community studies.