Enhanced crude oil biodegradative potential of natural phytoplankton-associated hydrocarbonoclastic bacteria

Haydn Frank Thompson, Angelina Georgieva Angelova, Bernard Bowler, Martin Jones, Tony Gutierrez

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34 Citations (Scopus)
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The association of bacteria with phytoplankton is ubiquitous and underlined by fundamentally important interactions that shape their ecology and impact on global biogeochemical processes. Phytoplankton have been shown to harbour a diversity of hydrocarbonoclastic bacteria (HCB), yet it is not understood how these phytoplankton-associated HCB would respond in the event of an oil spill at sea. Here, we assess the diversity and dynamics of the bacterial community associated with a natural population of marine phytoplankton under oil spill-simulated conditions, and compare it to that of the free-living (non phytoplankton-associated) bacterial community. Whilst the crude oil severely impacted the phytoplankton population and was likely conducive to marine oil snow (MOS) formation, analysis of the MiSeq-derived 16S rRNA data revealed dramatic and differential shifts in the oil-amended communities that included blooms of HCB (Thalassospira, Cycloclasticus, Colwelliaceae, Methylophaga and other Piscirickettsiaceae, Marinomonas), including putative novel phyla, as well as other groups with previously unqualified oil-degrading potential (Olleya, Winogradskyella, and members of the inconspicuous BD7-3 phylum). Notably, the oil biodegradation potential of the phytoplankton-associated community exceeded that of the free-living community in its capacity to degrade a wider diversity of hydrocarbon crude oil constituents, particularly substituted and non-substituted polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Our study provides evidence of compartmentalization of hydrocarbon-degrading capacity in the marine water column, wherein HCB associated with phytoplankton are better tuned to degrading crude oil hydrocarbons than that by the community of planktonic free-living bacteria. Hence, the influence of HCB associated with phytoplankton should be considered in future studies examining the microbial response and biodegradation of crude oil in marine environments.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2843-2861
JournalEnvironmental Microbiology
Issue number7
Early online date7 Jul 2017
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2017


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