Natural Sunlight Shapes Crude Oil-Degrading Bacterial Communities in Northern Gulf of Mexico Surface Waters.
ABSTRACT: Following the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) spill in 2010, an enormous amount of oil was observed in the deep and surface waters of the northern Gulf of Mexico. Surface waters are characterized by intense sunlight and high temperature during summer. While the oil-degrading bacterial communities in the deep-sea plume have been widely investigated, the effect of natural sunlight on those in oil polluted surface waters remains unexplored to date. In this study, we incubated surface water from the DWH site with amendments of crude oil, Corexit dispersant, or both for 36 days under natural sunlight in the northern Gulf of Mexico. The bacterial community was analyzed over time for total abundance, density of alkane and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon degraders, and community composition via pyrosequencing. Our results showed that, for treatments with oil and/or Corexit, sunlight significantly reduced bacterial diversity and evenness and was a key driver of shifts in bacterial community structure. In samples containing oil or dispersant, sunlight greatly reduced abundance of the Cyanobacterium Synechococcus but increased the relative abundances of Alteromonas, Marinobacter, Labrenzia, Sandarakinotalea, Bartonella, and Halomonas. Dark samples with oil were represented by members of Thalassobius, Winogradskyella, Alcanivorax, Formosa, Pseudomonas, Eubacterium, Erythrobacter, Natronocella, and Coxiella. Both oil and Corexit inhibited the Candidatus Pelagibacter with or without sunlight exposure. For the first time, we demonstrated the effects of light in structuring microbial communities in water with oil and/or Corexit. Overall, our findings improve understanding of oil pollution in surface water, and provide unequivocal evidence that sunlight is a key factor in determining bacterial community composition and dynamics in oil polluted marine waters.
Project description:During the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill, massive quantities of oil were deposited on the seafloor via a large-scale marine oil-snow sedimentation and flocculent accumulation (MOSSFA) event. The role of chemical dispersants (e.g., Corexit) applied during the DWH oil spill clean-up in helping or hindering the formation of this MOSSFA event are not well-understood. Here, we present the first experiment related to the DWH oil spill to specifically investigate the relationship between microbial community structure, oil and Corexit®, and marine oil-snow in coastal surface waters. We observed the formation of micron-scale aggregates of microbial cells around droplets of oil and dispersant and found that their rate of formation was directly related to the concentration of oil within the water column. These micro-aggregates are potentially important precursors to the formation of larger marine oil-snow particles. Therefore, our observation that Corexit® significantly enhanced their formation suggests dispersant application may play a role in the development of MOSSFA events. We also observed that microbial communities in marine surface waters respond to oil and oil plus Corexit® differently and much more rapidly than previously measured, with major shifts in community composition occurring within only a few hours of experiment initiation. In the oil-amended treatments without Corexit®, this manifested as an increase in community diversity due to the outgrowth of several putative aliphatic- and aromatic-hydrocarbon degrading genera, including phytoplankton-associated taxa. In contrast, microbial community diversity was reduced in mesocosms containing chemically dispersed oil. Importantly, different consortia of hydrocarbon degrading bacteria responded to oil and chemically dispersed oil, indicating that functional redundancy in the pre-spill community likely results in hydrocarbon consumption in both undispersed and dispersed oils, but by different bacterial taxa. Taken together, these data improve our understanding of how dispersants influence the degradation and transport of oil in marine surface waters following an oil spill and provide valuable insight into the early response of complex microbial communities to oil exposure.
Project description:Sinking marine oil snow was found to be a major mechanism in the transport of spilled oil from the surface to the deep sea following the Deepwater Horizon (DwH) oil spill. Marine snow formation is primarily facilitated by extracellular polymeric substances (EPS), which are mainly composed of proteins and carbohydrates secreted by microorganisms. While numerous bacteria have been identified to degrade oil, there is a paucity of knowledge on bacteria that produce EPS in response to oil and Corexit exposure in the northern Gulf of Mexico (nGoM). In this study, we isolated bacteria from surface water of the nGoM that grow on oil or Corexit dispersant. Among the 100 strains isolated, nine were identified to produce remarkable amounts of EPS. 16S rRNA gene analysis revealed that six isolates (strains C1, C5, W10, W11, W14, W20) belong to the genus Alteromonas; the others were related to Thalassospira (C8), Aestuariibacter (C12), and Escherichia (W13a). The isolates preferably degraded alkanes (17-77%), over polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (0.90-23%). The EPS production was determined in the presence of a water accommodated fraction (WAF) of oil, a chemical enhanced WAF (CEWAF), Corexit, and control. The highest production of visible aggregates was found in Corexit followed by CEWAF, WAF, and control; indicating that Corexit generally enhanced EPS production. The addition of WAF and Corexit did not affect the carbohydrate content, but significantly increased the protein content of the EPS. On the average, WAF and CEWAF treatments had nine to ten times more proteins, and Corexit had five times higher than the control. Our results reveal that Alteromonas and Thalassospira, among the commonly reported bacteria following the DwH spill, produce protein rich EPS that could have crucial roles in oil degradation and marine snow formation. This study highlights the link between EPS production and bacterial oil-degrading capacity that should not be overlooked during spilled oil clearance.
Project description:In this study we report the formation of marine oil snow (MOS), its associated microbial community, the factors influencing its formation, and the microbial response to crude oil in surface waters of the Faroe-Shetland Channel (FSC). The FSC is a subarctic region that is hydrodynamically complex located in the northeast Atlantic where oil extraction is currently occurring and where exploration is likely to expand into its deeper waters (>500 m). A major oil spill in this region may mirror the aftermath that ensued following the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) blowout in the Gulf of Mexico, where the massive influx of Macondo crude oil triggered the formation of copious quantities of rapidly sinking MOS and successional blooms of opportunistic oil-degrading bacteria. In laboratory experiments, we simulated environmental conditions in sea surface waters of the FSC using water collected from this site during the winter of 2015. We demonstrated that the presence of dispersant triggers the formation of MOS, and that nutrient amendments magnify this. Illumina MiSeq sequencing revealed the enrichment on MOS of associated oil-degrading (Cycloclasticus, Thalassolituus, Marinobacter) and EPS-producing (Halomonas, Pseudoalteromonas, Alteromonas) bacteria, and included major representation by Psychrobacter and Cobetia with putative oil-degrading/EPS-producing qualities. The formation of marine snow, in the absence of crude oil and dispersant, in seawater amended with nutrients alone indicated that the de novo synthesis of bacterial EPS is a key factor in MOS formation, and the glycoprotein composition of the MOS aggregates confirmed that its amorphous biopolymeric matrix was of microbial (likely bacterial) origin. The presence of dispersants and crude oil with/without nutrients resulted in distinct microbial responses marked by intermittent, and in some cases short-lived, blooms of opportunistic heterotrophs, principally obligate hydrocarbonoclastic (Alcanivorax, Cycloclasticus, Thalassolituus, Marinobacter) and EPS-producing (Halomonas, Alteromonas, Pseudoalteromonas) bacteria. Interestingly, members of the Vibrionales (principally the genus Vibrio) were strongly enriched by crude oil (with/without dispersant or nutrients), highlighting a putative importance for these organisms in crude oil biodegradation in the FSC. Our findings mirror those observed at DWH and hence underscore their broad relevance.
Project description:The obesity pandemic is associated with multiple major health concerns. In addition to diet and lifestyle, there is increasing evidence that environmental exposures to chemicals known as obesogens also may promote obesity.We investigated the massive environmental contamination resulting from the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill, including the use of the oil dispersant COREXIT in remediation efforts, to determine whether obesogens were released into the environment during this incident. We also sought to improve the sensitivity of obesogen detection methods in order to guide post-toxicological chemical assessments.Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma (PPARγ) transactivation assays were used to identify putative obesogens. Solid-phase extraction (SPE) was used to sub-fractionate the water-accommodated fraction generated by mixing COREXIT, cell culture media, and DWH oil (CWAF). Liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS) was used to identify components of fractionated CWAF. PPAR response element (PPRE) activity was measured in PPRE-luciferase transgenic mice. Ligand-binding assays were used to quantitate ligand affinity. Murine 3T3-L1 preadipocytes were used to assess adipogenic induction.Serum-free conditions greatly enhanced the sensitivity of PPARγ transactivation assays. CWAF and COREXIT had significant dose-dependent PPARγ transactivation activities. From SPE, the 50:50 water:ethanol volume fraction of CWAF contained this activity, and LC-MS indicated that major components of COREXIT contribute to PPARγ transactivation in the CWAF. Molecular modeling predicted several components of COREXIT might be PPARγ ligands. We classified dioctyl sodium sulfosuccinate (DOSS), a major component of COREXIT, as a probable obesogen by PPARγ transactivation assays, PPAR-driven luciferase induction in vivo, PPARγ binding assays (affinity comparable to pioglitazone and arachidonic acid), and in vitro murine adipocyte differentiation.We conclude that DOSS is a putative obesogen worthy of further study, including epidemiological and clinical investigations into laxative prescriptions consisting of DOSS.Temkin AM, Bowers RR, Magaletta ME, Holshouser S, Maggi A, Ciana P, Guillette LJ, Bowden JA, Kucklick JR, Baatz JE, Spyropoulos DD. 2016. Effects of crude oil/dispersant mixture and dispersant components on PPARγ activity in vitro and in vivo: identification of dioctyl sodium sulfosuccinate (DOSS; CAS #577-11-7) as a probable obesogen. Environ Health Perspect 124:112-119; http://dx.doi.org/10.1289/ehp.1409672.
Project description:The Deepwater Horizon (DWH) blowout resulted in the deposition to the seafloor of up to 4.9% of 200 million gallons of oil released into the Gulf of Mexico. The petroleum hydrocarbon concentrations near the wellhead were high immediately after the spill, but returned to background levels a few years after the spill. Microbial communities in the seafloor are thought to be responsible for the degradation of hydrocarbons, however, our knowledge is primarily based upon gene diversity surveys and hydrocarbon concentration in field sediment samples. Here, we investigated the oil degradation potential and changes in bacterial community by amending seafloor sediment collected near the DWH site with crude oil and both oil and Corexit dispersant. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons were rapidly degraded during the first 30 days of incubation, while alkanes were degraded more slowly. With the degradation of hydrocarbons, the relative abundances of Colwelliaceae, Alteromonadaceae, Methylococales, Alcanivorax, Bacteriovorax, and Phaeobacter increased remarkably. However, the abundances of oil-degrading bacteria changed with oil chemistry. Colwelliaceae decreased with increasing oil degradation, whereas Alcanivorax and Methylococcales increased considerably. We assembled seven genomes from the metagenome, including ones belonging to Colwellia, Alteromonadaceae, Rhodobacteraceae, the newly reported genus Woeseia, and candidate phylum NC10, all of which possess a repertoire of genes for hydrocarbon degradation. Moreover, genes related to hydrocarbon degradation were highly enriched in the oiled treatment, suggesting that the hydrocarbons were biodegraded, and that the indigenous microflora have a remarkable potential for the natural attenuation of spilled oil in the deep-sea surface sediment.
Project description:The need to understand the biodegradation of oil and chemical dispersants in Arctic marine environments is increasing alongside growth in oil exploration and transport in the region. We chemically quantified biodegradation and abiotic losses of crude oil and Corexit 9500, when present separately, in incubations of Arctic seawater and identified microorganisms potentially involved in biodegradation of these substrates based on shifts in bacterial community structure (16S rRNA genes) and abundance of biodegradation genes (GeoChip 5.0 microarray). Incubations were performed over 28-day time courses using surface seawater collected from near-shore and offshore locations in the Chukchi Sea. Within 28 days, the indigenous microbial community biodegraded 36% (k = 0.010 day-1) and 41% (k = 0.014 day-1) of oil and biodegraded 77% and 33% (k = 0.015 day-1) of the Corexit 9500 component dioctyl sodium sulfosuccinate (DOSS) in respective near-shore and offshore incubations. Non-ionic surfactants (Span 80, Tween 80, and Tween 85) present in Corexit 9500 were non-detectable by 28 days due to a combination of abiotic losses and biodegradation. Microorganisms utilized oil and Corexit 9500 as growth substrates during the incubation, with the Corexit 9500 stimulating more extensive growth than oil within 28 days. Taxa known to include oil-degrading bacteria (e.g., Oleispira, Polaribacter, and Colwellia) and some oil biodegradation genes (e.g., alkB, nagG, and pchCF) increased in relative abundance in response to both oil and Corexit 9500. These results increase our understanding of oil and dispersant biodegradation in the Arctic and suggest that some bacteria may be capable of biodegrading both oil and Corexit 9500.
Project description:Western Canada produces large amounts of bitumen, a heavy, highly weathered crude oil. Douglas Channel and Hecate Strait on the coast of British Columbia are two water bodies that may be impacted by a proposed pipeline and marine shipping route for diluted bitumen (dilbit). This study investigated the potential of microbial communities from these waters to mitigate the impacts of a potential dilbit spill. Microcosm experiments were set up with water samples representing different seasons, years, sampling stations, and dilbit blends. While the alkane fraction of the tested dilbit blends was almost completely degraded after 28?days, the majority of the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) remained. The addition of the dispersant Corexit 9500A most often had either no effect or an enhancing effect on dilbit degradation. Dilbit-degrading microbial communities were highly variable between seasons, years, and stations, with dilbit type having little impact on community trajectories. Potential oil-degrading genera showed a clear succession pattern and were for the most part recruited from the "rare biosphere." At the community level, dispersant appeared to stimulate an accelerated enrichment of genera typically associated with hydrocarbon degradation, even in dilbit-free controls. This suggests that dispersant-induced growth of hydrocarbon degraders (and not only increased bioavailability of oil-associated hydrocarbons) contributes to the degradation-enhancing effect previously reported for Corexit 9500A.IMPORTANCE Western Canada hosts large petroleum deposits, which ultimately enter the market in the form of dilbit. Tanker-based shipping represents the primary means to transport dilbit to international markets. With anticipated increases in production to meet global energy needs, the risk of a dilbit spill is expected to increase. This study investigated the potential of microbial communities naturally present in the waters of a potential dilbit shipping lane to mitigate the effects of a spill. Here we show that microbial degradation of dilbit was mostly limited to n-alkanes, while the overall concentration of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which represent the most toxic fraction of dilbit, decreased only slightly within the time frame of our experiments. We further investigated the effect of the oil dispersant Corexit 9500A on microbial dilbit degradation. Our results highlight the fact that dispersant-associated growth stimulation, and not only increased bioavailability of hydrocarbons and inhibition of specific genera, contributes to the overall effect of dispersant addition.
Project description:To better understand the impacts of Corexit 9500 on the structure and activity levels of hydrocarbon-degrading microbial communities, we analyzed next-generation 16S rRNA gene sequencing libraries of hydrocarbon enrichments grown at 5 and 25°C using both DNA and RNA extracts as the sequencing templates. Oil biodegradation patterns in both 5 and 25°C enrichments were consistent with those reported in the literature (i.e., aliphatics were degraded faster than aromatics). Slight increases in biodegradation were observed in the presence of Corexit at both temperatures. Differences in community structure were observed between treatment conditions in the DNA-based libraries. The 25°C consortia were dominated by Vibrio, Idiomarina, Marinobacter, Alcanivorax, and Thalassospira species, while the 5°C consortia were dominated by several species of the genera Flavobacterium, Alcanivorax, and Oleispira Most of these genera have been linked to hydrocarbon degradation and have been observed after oil spills. Colwellia and Cycloclasticus, known aromatic degraders, were also found in these enrichments. The addition of Corexit did not have an effect on the active bacterial community structure of the 5°C consortia, while at 25°C, a decrease in the relative abundance of Marinobacter was observed. At 25°C, Thalassospira, Marinobacter, and Idiomarina were present at higher relative abundances in the RNA than DNA libraries, suggesting that they were active in degradation. Similarly, Oleispira was greatly stimulated by the addition of oil at 5°C.IMPORTANCE While dispersants such as Corexit 9500 can be used to treat oil spills, there is still debate on the effectiveness on enhancing oil biodegradation and its potential toxic effect on oil-degrading microbial communities. The results of this study provide some insights on the microbial dynamics of hydrocarbon-degrading bacterial populations in the presence of Corexit 9500. Operational taxonomic unit (OTU) analyses indicated that several OTUs were inhibited by the addition of Corexit. Conversely, a number of OTUs were stimulated by the addition of the dispersant, many of which were identified as known hydrocarbon-degrading bacteria. The results highlight the value of using RNA-based methods to further understand the impact of dispersant on the overall activity of different hydrocarbon-degrading bacterial groups.
Project description:Solar radiation exposure can increase the toxicity of bioaccumulated oil compounds in a diversity of aquatic species. We investigated the photoenhanced toxicity of weathered South Louisiana crude oil in sediment and water accommodated fractions (WAF) to larval zebrafish. Larvae were first exposed for 24 h to one of six treatments: no oil (sediment or water), 7.5 g oil/kg sediment, oil-only WAF, oil WAF plus the dispersant Corexit 9500A, or dispersant alone. Larvae were then exposed to high or low levels of sunlight in control water for 3 or 3.5 h. Hydrocarbon concentrations were measured in exposure media, including alkanes, polycyclic aromatic compounds and total petroleum hydrocarbons. Significant phototoxicity was observed in larvae exposed to oiled sediment, oil-only WAF, and oil plus dispersant WAF. The results indicated that petroleum from the northern Gulf of Mexico can be phototoxic to larval fish exposed to oil in either the water column or sediment.
Project description:Extracellular enzymes and extracellular polymeric substances (EPS) play a key role in overall microbial activity, growth and survival in the ocean. EPS, being amphiphilic in nature, can act as biological surfactant in an oil spill situation. Extracellular enzymes help microbes to digest and utilize fractions of organic matter, including EPS, which can stimulate growth and enhance microbial activity. These natural processes might have been altered during the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill due to the presence of hydrocarbon and dispersant. This study aims to investigate the role of bacterial extracellular enzymes during exposure to hydrocarbons and dispersant. Mesocosm studies were conducted using a water accommodated fraction of oil mixed with the chemical dispersant, Corexit (CEWAF) in seawater collected from two different locations in the Gulf of Mexico and corresponding controls (no additions). Activities of five extracellular enzymes typically found in the EPS secreted by the microbial community - ?- and ?-glucosidase, lipase, alkaline phosphatase, leucine amino-peptidase - were measured using fluorogenic substrates in three different layers of the mesocosm tanks (surface, water column and bottom). Enhanced EPS production and extracellular enzyme activities were observed in the CEWAF treatment compared to the Control. Higher bacterial and micro-aggregate counts were also observed in the CEWAF treatment compared to Controls. Bacterial genera in the order Alteromonadaceae were the most abundant bacterial 16S rRNA amplicons recovered. Genomes of Alteromonadaceae commonly have alkaline phosphatase and leucine aminopeptidase, therefore they may contribute significantly to the measured enzyme activities. Only Alteromonadaceae and Pseudomonadaceae among bacteria detected here have higher percentage of genes for lipase. Piscirickettsiaceae was abundant; genomes from this order commonly have genes for leucine aminopeptidase. Overall, this study provides insights into the alteration to the microbial processes such as EPS and extracellular enzyme production, and to the microbial community, when exposed to the mixture of oil and dispersant.