Unique Rhizosphere Microcharacteristics Facilitate Phytoextraction of Multiple Metals in Soil by the Hyperaccumulating Plant Sedum alfredii

Understanding the strategies that the roots of hyperaccumulating plants use to extract heavy metals from soils is important for optimizing phytoremediation. The rhizosphere characteristics of Sedum alfredii, a hyperaccumulator, were investigated 6 months after it had been planted in weathered field soils contaminated with 5.8 μg of Cd g–1, 1985.1 μg of Zn g–1, 667.5 μg of Pb g–1, and 698.8 μg of Cu g–1. In contrast with the non-hyperaccumulating ecotype (NHE), the hyperaccumulating ecotype (HE) of S. alfredii was more tolerant to the metals, and higher levels of Cd and Zn accumulated. The HE was characterized by a unique rhizosphere, including extensive root systems, a reduced soil pH, a higher metal bioavailability, and increased rhizomicrobial activity. The bioavailability of metals was significantly correlated with the HE’s unique bacterial communities (P < 0.005). The HE harbored abundant Streptomyces (9.43%, family Streptomycetaceae), Kribbella (1.08%, family Nocardioidaceae), and an unclassified genus (1.09%, family Nocardioidaceae) in its rhizosphere, a composition that differed from that of the NHE. PICRUSt analysis predicted high relative abundances of imputed functional profiles in the HE rhizosphere related to membrane transport and amino acid metabolism. This study reveals the rhizosphere characteristics, particularly the unique bacterial rhizobiome of a hyperaccumulator, that might provide a new approach to facilitating heavy metal phytoextraction.