Microbial and metabolic succession on common building materials under high humidity conditions

Simon Lax, Cesar Cardona, Dan Zhao, Valerie J. Winton, Gabriel Goodney, Peng Gao, Neil Gottel, Erica M. Hartmann, Chris Henry, Paul M. Thomas, Scott T. Kelley, Brent Stephens*, Jack A. Gilbert

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Despite considerable efforts to characterize the microbial ecology of the built environment, the metabolic mechanisms underpinning microbial colonization and successional dynamics remain unclear, particularly at high moisture conditions. Here, we applied bacterial/viral particle counting, qPCR, amplicon sequencing of the genes encoding 16S and ITS rRNA, and metabolomics to longitudinally characterize the ecological dynamics of four common building materials maintained at high humidity. We varied the natural inoculum provided to each material and wet half of the samples to simulate a potable water leak. Wetted materials had higher growth rates and lower alpha diversity compared to non-wetted materials, and wetting described the majority of the variance in bacterial, fungal, and metabolite structure. Inoculation location was weakly associated with bacterial and fungal beta diversity. Material type influenced bacterial and viral particle abundance and bacterial and metabolic (but not fungal) diversity. Metabolites indicative of microbial activity were identified, and they too differed by material.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1767
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physics and Astronomy(all)
  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


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