The role of methylotrophic bacteria in the fate of the oil and gas released into the Gulf of Mexico during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill has been controversial, particularly in relation to whether organisms such as Methylophaga had contributed to the consumption of methane. Whilst methanotrophy remains unqualified in these organisms, recent work by our group using DNA-SIP coupled with cultivation-based methods has uncovered hydrocarbon-degrading Methylophaga. Recent findings have also shown that methylotrophs, including Methylophaga, were in a heightened state of metabolic activity within oil plume waters during the active phase of the spill. Taken collectively, these findings suggest that members of this group may have participated in the degradation of high-molecular-weight hydrocarbons in plume waters. The discovery of hydrocarbon-degrading Methylophaga also highlights the importance of considering these organisms in playing a role to the fate of oil hydrocarbons at oil-impacted sites.
Gutierrez, T., & Aitken, M. D. (2014). Role of methylotrophs in the degradation of hydrocarbons during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. ISME Journal, 8, 2543-2545. https://doi.org/10.1038/ismej.2014.88