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

Lookup NU author(s): Bernard Bowler, Dr Martin Jones



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of an article that has been published in its final definitive form by Wiley , 2017.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


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 recognised HCB (e.g. Thalassospira, Cycloclasticus), 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, and it showed a preference to degrade substituted and non-substituted polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Our study provides evidence of compartmentalisation 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. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved

Publication metadata

Author(s): Thompson H, Angelova A, Bowler B, Jones M, Gutierrez T

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Environmental Microbiology

Year: 2017

Volume: 19

Issue: 7

Pages: 2843-2861

Print publication date: 01/07/2017

Online publication date: 05/06/2017

Acceptance date: 30/05/2017

Date deposited: 25/08/2017

ISSN (print): 1462-2912

ISSN (electronic): 1462-2920

Publisher: Wiley


DOI: 10.1111/1462-2920.13811


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Funder referenceFunder name
Royal Society Research Grant ( RG140180 )
Scottish Environmental Protecti on Agency (SEPA)