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Microorganisms, pesticides, antibiotics, and organic pollutants: exploring the interactions and biotechnological applications

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Life on Earth for the last 4 billion years has been dominated by microbes. Microorganisms are known to support the life of all organisms through the development of biotic interactions with different hosts giving birth to various microbiomes. On top of that microorganisms are recognized as key players of ...

Life on Earth for the last 4 billion years has been dominated by microbes. Microorganisms are known to support the life of all organisms through the development of biotic interactions with different hosts giving birth to various microbiomes. On top of that microorganisms are recognized as key players of important ecosystemic services including: (i) primary production by supporting plant health and (ii) climate regulation via their mediating role in geochemical cycles, water purification and waste treatment. It is now well documented that from all environments on Earth, soil is the one that stands out with the largest microbial diversity per unit mass or volume. Microbes are immensely diverse phylogeneticaly and functionally being able to perform complex metabolic transformations. This treasured reservoir is the largest source of diversity to be described with a huge potential for industrial applications but it remains largely untapped since more than 99% of microbes cannot be cultured on media currently available. Recent advances in -omic technologies such as metagenomic, metatranscriptomics, proteomics, high density DNA microarrays, and others provided the opportunity to understand the microbial dark matter and explore and exploit the hidden microbial diversity.

Despite the recognized importance of soils for human and environmental health, arable soils are continuously exposed to agrochemicals including fertilizers, pesticides and veterinary antibiotics. Once applied to the soil, agrochemicals are subject to various dissipation processes with microbial degradation being the key process for most currently available agrochemicals. Upon their release in the soil environment, agrochemicals interact with soil microorganisms in various ways. On the one hand agrochemicals and/or their main metabolites can be harmful to soil microorganisms inducing detrimental effects on their community structure and function. On the other hand, agrochemicals can be used as substrates and/or source of energy for soil microorganisms which carry the genetic armoury to metabolize them rapidly. However, microbial metabolism of agrochemicals is not always synonymous to detoxification and occasionally leads to metabolic products which can be more deleterious than the parent compound. The factors determining the outcome of the interactions between soil microbes and agrochemicals (toxicity or energy-gain catabolism) should be explored within the soil environmental context to enable us to predict the potential consequences by the introduction of novel chemicals in the soil environment.

For the above reasons, we welcome researchers all over the world to contribute with original articles, as well as reviews that will stimulate the continuing efforts to understand the complex interactions between pesticides, antibiotics, organic pollutants and microorganisms.

Before submission, authors should carefully read over the journal’s Author Guidelines, which are located at http://journal.frontiersin.org/journal/all/section/systems-microbiology#author-guidelines.


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