The microbial community characteristics of ancient painted sculptures in Maijishan Grottoes, China

Yulong Duan, Fasi Wu, Wanfu Wang, Dongpeng He, Ji Dong Gu, Huyuan Feng, Tuo Chen, Guangxiu Liu, Lizhe An

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In this study, a culture-independent Illumina MiSeq sequencing strategy was applied to investigate the microbial communities colonizing the ancient painted sculptures of the Maijishan Grottoes, a famous World Cultural Heritage site listed by UNESCO in China. Four mixed samples were collected from Cave 4-4 of the Maijishan Grottoes, the so-called Upper Seven Buddha Pavilion, which was built during the Northern Zhou Dynasty (557- 581AD). The 16/18S rRNA gene-based sequences revealed a rich bacterial diversity and a relatively low fungal abundance, including the bacterial groups Actinobacteria, Acidobacteria, Bacteroidetes, Cyanobacteria, Chloroflexi, Firmicutes, Proteobacteria and Verrucomicrobia and the fungal groups Ascomycota, Basidiomycota and Chytridiomycota. Among them, the bacteria genera of Pseudonocardia and Rubrobacter and unclassified fungi in the order of Capnodiales were dominant. The relative abundance of Pseudonocardia in the painted layer samples was higher than that in the dust sample, while Cyanobacteria dominated in the dust sample. Many of them have been discovered at other cultural heritage sites and associated with the biodeterioration of cultural relics. The presence and activity of these pioneering microorganisms may lead to an unexpected deterioration of the painted sculptures that are preserved in this heritage site. Thus, proper management strategies and potential risk monitoring should be used in the Maijishan Grottoes to improve the conservation of these precious painted sculptures.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0179718
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2017
Externally publishedYes


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