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Assessment of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill impact on Gulf coast microbial communities

Regina Lamendella, Steven Strutt, Sharon Borglin, Romy Chakraborty, Neslihan Tas, Olivia U Mason, Jenni Hultman, Emmanuel Prestat, Terry C Hazen, Janet K Jansson
Frontiers in Microbiology 2014, 5: 130
24772107
One of the major environmental concerns of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was the ecological impact of the oil that reached shorelines of the Gulf Coast. Here we investigated the impact of the oil on the microbial composition in beach samples collected in June 2010 along a heavily impacted shoreline near Grand Isle, Louisiana. Successional changes in the microbial community structure due to the oil contamination were determined by deep sequencing of 16S rRNA genes. Metatranscriptomics was used to determine expression of functional genes involved in hydrocarbon degradation processes. In addition, potential hydrocarbon-degrading Bacteria were obtained in culture. The 16S data revealed that highly contaminated samples had higher abundances of Alpha- and Gammaproteobacteria sequences. Successional changes in these classes were observed over time, during which the oil was partially degraded. The metatranscriptome data revealed that PAH, n-alkane, and toluene degradation genes were expressed in the contaminated samples, with high homology to genes from Alteromonadales, Rhodobacterales, and Pseudomonales. Notably, Marinobacter (Gammaproteobacteria) had the highest representation of expressed genes in the samples. A Marinobacter isolated from this beach was shown to have potential for transformation of hydrocarbons in incubation experiments with oil obtained from the Mississippi Canyon Block 252 (MC252) well; collected during the Deepwater Horizon spill. The combined data revealed a response of the beach microbial community to oil contaminants, including prevalence of Bacteria endowed with the functional capacity to degrade oil.

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