Starvation-dependent inhibition of the hydrocarbon degrader marinobacter sp. TT1 by a chemical dispersant

Saskia Rughoft, Anjela L. Thon, Samantha B. Joye, Tony Gutierrez, Sara Kleindienst

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)
24 Downloads (Pure)


During marine oil spills, chemical dispersants are used routinely to disperse surface slicks, transferring the hydrocarbon constituents of oil into the aqueous phase. Nonetheless, a comprehensive understanding of how dispersants affect natural populations of hydrocarbon-degrading bacteria, particularly under environmentally relevant conditions, is lacking. We investigated the impacts of the dispersant Corexit EC9500A on the marine hydrocarbon degrader Marinobacter sp. TT1 when pre-adapted to either low n-hexadecane concentrations (starved culture) or high n-hexadecane concentrations (well-fed culture). The growth of previously starved cells was inhibited when exposed to the dispersant, as evidenced by 55% lower cell numbers and 30% lower n-hexadecane biodegradation efficiency compared to cells grown on n-hexadecane alone. Cultures that were well-fed did not exhibit dispersant-induced inhibition of growth or n-hexadecane degradation. In addition, fluorescence microscopy revealed amorphous cell aggregate structures when the starved culture was exposed to dispersants, suggesting that Corexit affected the biofilm formation behavior of starved cells. Our findings indicate that (previous) substrate limitation, resembling oligotrophic open ocean conditions, can impact the response and hydrocarbon-degrading activities of oil-degrading organisms when exposed to Corexit, and highlight the need for further work to better understand the implications of environmental stressors on oil biodegradation and microbial community dynamics.
Original languageEnglish
Article number925
JournalJournal of Marine Science and Engineering
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 16 Nov 2020


  • Alkane biodegradation
  • Carbon starvation
  • Corexit
  • Dispersant
  • Hexadecane
  • Marinobacter
  • Oil biodegradation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Ocean Engineering


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