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Metagenomic investigation of a low diversity, high salinity offshore oil reservoir

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Casey Hubert, Dr Sven LahmeORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


© 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.Oil reservoirs can represent extreme environments for microbial life due to low water availability, high salinity, high pressure and naturally occurring radionuclides. This study investi-gated the microbiome of saline formation water samples from a Gulf of Mexico oil reservoir. Meta-genomic analysis and associated anaerobic enrichment cultures enabled investigations into metabolic potential for microbial activity and persistence in this environment given its high salinity (4.5%) and low nutrient availability. Preliminary 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing revealed very low microbial diversity. Accordingly, deep shotgun sequencing resulted in nine metagenome-as-sembled genomes (MAGs), including members of novel lineages QPJE01 (genus level) within the Halanaerobiaceae, and BM520 (family level) within the Bacteroidales. Genomes of the nine organisms included respiratory pathways such as nitrate reduction (in Arhodomonas, Flexistipes, Geotoga and Marinobacter MAGs) and thiosulfate reduction (in Arhodomonas, Flexistipes and Geotoga MAGs). Genomic evidence for adaptation to high salinity, withstanding radioactivity, and metal acquisition was also observed in different MAGs, possibly explaining their occurrence in this extreme habitat. Other metabolic features included the potential for quorum sensing and biofilm formation, and genes for forming endospores in some cases. Understanding the microbiomes of deep biosphere environments sheds light on the capabilities of uncultivated subsurface microorganisms and their potential roles in subsurface settings, including during oil recovery operations.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Scheffer G, Hubert CRJ, Enning DR, Lahme S, Mand J, de Rezende JR

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Microorganisms

Year: 2021

Volume: 9

Issue: 11

Online publication date: 31/10/2021

Acceptance date: 28/09/2021

Date deposited: 10/11/2021

ISSN (electronic): 2076-2607

Publisher: MDPI


DOI: 10.3390/microorganisms9112266


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Funder referenceFunder name
EM09030ExxonMobil Upstream Research Co.
the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC)