Impact Factor


Original Research ARTICLE

Front. Microbiol., 03 April 2014 | http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fmicb.2014.00130

Assessment of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill impact on Gulf coast microbial communities

  • 1Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Earth Sciences Division, Ecology Department, Berkeley, CA, USA
  • 2Biology Department, Juniata College, Huntingdon, PA, USA
  • 3Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Science, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL, USA
  • 4Department of Food Hygiene and Environmental Health, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
  • 5Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN, USA
  • 6Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Biosciences Division, Oak Ridge, TN, USA
  • 7Department of Energy, Joint Genome Institute, Walnut Creek, CA, USA

One of the major environmental concerns of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was the ecological impact of the oil that reached shorelines of the Gulf Coast. Here we investigated the impact of the oil on the microbial composition in beach samples collected in June 2010 along a heavily impacted shoreline near Grand Isle, Louisiana. Successional changes in the microbial community structure due to the oil contamination were determined by deep sequencing of 16S rRNA genes. Metatranscriptomics was used to determine expression of functional genes involved in hydrocarbon degradation processes. In addition, potential hydrocarbon-degrading Bacteria were obtained in culture. The 16S data revealed that highly contaminated samples had higher abundances of Alpha- and Gammaproteobacteria sequences. Successional changes in these classes were observed over time, during which the oil was partially degraded. The metatranscriptome data revealed that PAH, n-alkane, and toluene degradation genes were expressed in the contaminated samples, with high homology to genes from Alteromonadales, Rhodobacterales, and Pseudomonales. Notably, Marinobacter (Gammaproteobacteria) had the highest representation of expressed genes in the samples. A Marinobacter isolated from this beach was shown to have potential for transformation of hydrocarbons in incubation experiments with oil obtained from the Mississippi Canyon Block 252 (MC252) well; collected during the Deepwater Horizon spill. The combined data revealed a response of the beach microbial community to oil contaminants, including prevalence of Bacteria endowed with the functional capacity to degrade oil.

Keywords: hydrocarbons, 16S rRNA gene, metatranscriptomics, oil spill, microbial communities

Citation: Lamendella R, Strutt S, Borglin S, Chakraborty R, Tas N, Mason OU, Hultman J, Prestat E, Hazen TC and Jansson JK (2014) Assessment of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill impact on Gulf coast microbial communities. Front. Microbiol. 5:130. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2014.00130

Received: 20 November 2013; Accepted: 13 March 2014;
Published online: 03 April 2014.

Edited by:

Joel E. Kostka, Georgia Institute of Technology, USA

Reviewed by:

Peter Golyshin, Bangor University, UK
Kostas Konstantinidis, Georgia Institute of Technology, USA

Copyright © 2014 Lamendella, Strutt, Borglin, Chakraborty, Tas, Mason, Hultman, Prestat, Hazen and Jansson. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

*Correspondence: Regina Lamendella, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Earth Sciences Division, Ecology Department, 1 Cyclotron Road, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA e-mail: jrjansson@lbl.gov