Coral reefs provide habitat for an array of marine invertebrates that host symbiotic microbiomes. Photosynthetic symbionts including Symbiodinium dinoflagellates and diatoms potentially influence the diversity of their host-associated microbiomes by releasing carbon-containing photosynthates and other organic compounds that fuel microbial metabolism. Here we used 16S ribosomal RNA (rRNA) gene amplicon pyrosequencing to characterise the microbiomes of 11 common Great Barrier Reef marine invertebrate species that host photosynthetic symbionts and five taxa in which they are absent. The presence of photosynthetic symbionts influenced the composition but not the species richness, evenness and phylogenetic diversity of invertebrate-associated microbiomes. Invertebrates without photosynthetic symbionts were dominated by Alphaproteobacteria, whereas those hosting photosynthetic symbionts were dominated by Gammaproteobacteria. Interestingly, many microbial species from photosymbiont-bearing invertebrates, including Oceanospirillales spp., Alteromonas spp., Pseudomonas spp., Halomonas spp., are implicated in the metabolism of dimethylsulfoniopropionate (DMSP). DMSP is produced in high concentrations by photosynthetic dinoflagellates and is involved in climate regulation by facilitating cloud formation. Microbiomes correlated with host taxa and replicate individuals from most sampled species grouped in distance-based redundancy analysis of retrieved 16S rRNA gene sequences. This study highlights the complex nature of invertebrate holobionts and confirms the importance of photosynthetic symbionts in structuring marine invertebrate bacterial communities.
marine invertebrate; microbial diversity; 16S rRNA gene; pyrosequencing; coral reefs
The gastrointestinal (GI) microbiome contributes significantly to host nutrition and health. However, relationships involving GI microbes, their hosts and host macrohabitats remain to be established. Here, we define clear patterns of variation in the GI microbiomes of six groups of Mexican black howler monkeys (Alouatta pigra) occupying a gradation of habitats including a continuous evergreen rainforest, an evergreen rainforest fragment, a continuous semi-deciduous forest and captivity. High throughput microbial 16S ribosomal RNA gene sequencing indicated that diversity, richness and composition of howler GI microbiomes varied with host habitat in relation to diet. Howlers occupying suboptimal habitats consumed less diverse diets and correspondingly had less diverse gut microbiomes. Quantitative real-time PCR also revealed a reduction in the number of genes related to butyrate production and hydrogen metabolism in the microbiomes of howlers occupying suboptimal habitats, which may impact host health.
Alouatta; gut microbiome; habitat; primate
Observation of short-term temporal variation in bacterial and viral communities is important for understanding patterns of aquatic microbial diversity. We collected surface seawater once daily for 38 consecutive days with seven more samples interspersed over 40 more days at one location ∼2 km from Santa Catalina Island, California. Bacterial communities were analyzed by automated ribosomal intergenic spacer analysis (ARISA) and viral communities were analyzed by terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism (TRFLP) of the conserved T4-like myoviral gene encoding the major capsid protein (g23). Common bacterial and viral taxa were consistently dominant, and relatively few displayed dramatic increases/decreases or ‘boom/bust' patterns that might be expected from dynamic predator-prey interactions. Association network analysis showed most significant covariations (associations) occurred among bacterial taxa or among viral taxa and there were several modular (highly-interconnected) associations (P⩽0.005). Associations observed between bacteria and viruses (P⩽0.005) occurred with a median time lag of 2 days. Regression of all pairwise Bray-Curtis similarities between samples indicated a rate of bacterial community change that slows from 2.1%–0.18% per day over a week to 2 months; the rate stays around 0.4% per day for viruses. Our interpretation is that, over the scale of days, individual bacterial and viral OTUs can be dynamic and patterned; resulting in statistical associations regarded as potential ecological interactions. However, over the scale of weeks, average bacterial community variation is slower, suggesting that there is strong community-level ecological resilience, that is, a tendency to converge towards a ‘mean' microbial community set by longer-term controlling factors.
ARISA; bacteria; marine; T4-like myovirus; network; time-series
The importance of bacteria in the anaerobic bioremediation of groundwater polluted with organic and/or metal contaminants is well recognized and in some instances so well understood that modeling of the in situ metabolic activity of the relevant subsurface microorganisms in response to changes in subsurface geochemistry is feasible. However, a potentially significant factor influencing bacterial growth and activity in the subsurface that has not been adequately addressed is protozoan predation of the microorganisms responsible for bioremediation. In field experiments at a uranium-contaminated aquifer located in Rifle, CO, USA, acetate amendments initially promoted the growth of metal-reducing Geobacter species, followed by the growth of sulfate reducers, as observed previously. Analysis of 18S rRNA gene sequences revealed a broad diversity of sequences closely related to known bacteriovorous protozoa in the groundwater before the addition of acetate. The bloom of Geobacter species was accompanied by a specific enrichment of sequences most closely related to the ameboid flagellate, Breviata anathema, which at their peak accounted for over 80% of the sequences recovered. The abundance of Geobacter species declined following the rapid emergence of B. anathema. The subsequent growth of sulfate-reducing Peptococcaceae was accompanied by another specific enrichment of protozoa, but with sequences most similar to diplomonadid flagellates from the family Hexamitidae, which accounted for up to 100% of the sequences recovered during this phase of the bioremediation. These results suggest a prey–predator response with specific protozoa responding to increased availability of preferred prey bacteria. Thus, quantifying the influence of protozoan predation on the growth, activity and composition of the subsurface bacterial community is essential for predictive modeling of in situ uranium bioremediation strategies.
Geobacter; Breviata; Peptococcaceae; Hexamitidae; uranium bioremediation; protozoan predation
Soil bacteria known as rhizobia are able to establish an endosymbiosis with legumes that takes place in neoformed nodules in which intracellularly hosted bacteria fix nitrogen. Intracellular accommodation that facilitates nutrient exchange between the two partners and protects bacteria from plant defense reactions has been a major evolutionary step towards mutualism. Yet the forces that drove the selection of the late event of intracellular infection during rhizobium evolution are unknown. To address this question, we took advantage of the previous conversion of the plant pathogen Ralstonia solanacearum into a legume-nodulating bacterium that infected nodules only extracellularly. We experimentally evolved this draft rhizobium into intracellular endosymbionts using serial cycles of legume-bacterium cocultures. The three derived lineages rapidly gained intracellular infection capacity, revealing that the legume is a highly selective environment for the evolution of this trait. From genome resequencing, we identified in each lineage a mutation responsible for the extracellular–intracellular transition. All three mutations target virulence regulators, strongly suggesting that several virulence-associated functions interfere with intracellular infection. We provide evidence that the adaptive mutations were selected for their positive effect on nodulation. Moreover, we showed that inactivation of the type three secretion system of R. solanacearum that initially allowed the ancestral draft rhizobium to nodulate, was also required to permit intracellular infection, suggesting a similar checkpoint for bacterial invasion at the early nodulation/root infection and late nodule cell entry levels. We discuss our findings with respect to the spread and maintenance of intracellular infection in rhizobial lineages during evolutionary times.
symbiosis; experimental evolution; rhizobium; infection; genomics
The trace element selenium (Se) is required for the biosynthesis of selenocysteine (Sec), the 21st amino acid in the genetic code, but its role in the ecology of harmful algal blooms (HABs) is unknown. Here, we examined the role of Se in the biology and ecology of the harmful pelagophyte, Aureococcus anophagefferens, through cell culture, genomic analyses, and ecosystem studies. This organism has the largest and the most diverse selenoproteome identified to date that consists of at least 59 selenoproteins, including known eukaryotic selenoproteins, selenoproteins previously only detected in bacteria, and novel selenoproteins. The A. anophagefferens selenoproteome was dominated by the thioredoxin fold proteins and oxidoreductase functions were assigned to the majority of detected selenoproteins. Insertion of Sec in these proteins was supported by a unique Sec insertion sequence. Se was required for the growth of A. anophagefferens as cultures grew maximally at nanomolar Se concentrations. In a coastal ecosystem, dissolved Se concentrations were elevated before and after A. anophagefferens blooms, but were reduced by >95% during the peak of blooms to 0.05 nℳ. Consistent with this pattern, enrichment of seawater with selenite before and after a bloom did not affect the growth of A. anophagefferens, but enrichment during the peak of the bloom significantly increased population growth rates. These findings demonstrate that Se inventories, which can be anthropogenically enriched, can support proliferation of HABs, such as A. anophagefferens through its synthesis of a large arsenal of Se-dependent oxidoreductases that fine-tune cellular redox homeostasis.
selenium; selenoproteins; harmful algal blooms; HABs; genome sequence; Aureococcus anophagefferens
The Baltic Sea receives large nitrogen inputs by diazotrophic (N2-fixing) heterocystous cyanobacteria but the significance of heterotrophic N2 fixation has not been studied. Here, the diversity, abundance and transcription of the nifH fragment of the nitrogenase enzyme in two basins of the Baltic Sea proper was examined. N2 fixation was measured at the surface (5 m) and in anoxic water (200 m). Vertical sampling profiles of >10 and <10 μm size fractions were collected in 2007, 2008 and 2011 at the Gotland Deep and in 2011 in the Bornholm Basin. Both of these stations are characterized by permanently anoxic bottom water. The 454-pyrosequencing nifH analysis revealed a diverse assemblage of nifH genes related to alpha-, beta- and gammaproteobacteria (nifH cluster I) and anaerobic bacteria (nifH cluster III) at and below the chemocline. Abundances of genes and transcripts of seven diazotrophic phylotypes were investigated using quantitative polymerase chain reaction revealing abundances of heterotrophic nifH phylotypes of up to 2.1 × 107
nifH copies l−1. Abundant nifH transcripts (up to 3.2 × 104 transcripts l−1) within nifH cluster III and co-occurring N2 fixation (0.44±0.26 nmol l−1 day−1) in deep water suggests that heterotrophic diazotrophs are fixing N2 in anoxic ammonium-rich waters. Our results reveal that N2 fixation in the Baltic Sea is not limited to illuminated N-deplete surface waters and suggest that N2 fixation could also be of importance in other suboxic regions of the world's oceans.
Baltic Sea; chemocline; nifH; nitrogen fixation; oxic-anoxic interface; pyrosequencing
The processes and mechanisms underlying the diversification of host–microbe endosymbiotic associations are of evolutionary interest. Here we investigated the bacteriocyte-associated primary symbionts of weevils wherein the ancient symbiont Nardonella has experienced two independent replacement events: once by Curculioniphilus symbiont in the lineage of Curculio and allied weevils of the tribe Curculionini, and once by Sodalis-allied symbiont in the lineage of grain weevils of the genus Sitophilus. The Curculioniphilus symbiont was detected from 27 of 36 Curculionini species examined, the symbiont phylogeny was congruent with the host weevil phylogeny, and the symbiont gene sequences exhibited AT-biased nucleotide compositions and accelerated molecular evolution. These results suggest that the Curculioniphilus symbiont was acquired by an ancestor of the tribe Curculionini, replaced the original symbiont Nardonella, and has co-speciated with the host weevils over evolutionary time, but has been occasionally lost in several host lineages. By contrast, the Sodalis-allied symbiont of Sitophilus weevils exhibited no host–symbiont co-speciation, no AT-biased nucleotide compositions and only moderately accelerated molecular evolution. These results suggest that the Sodalis-allied symbiont was certainly acquired by an ancestor of the Sitophilus weevils and replaced the original Nardonella symbiont, but the symbiotic association must have experienced occasional re-associations such as new acquisitions, horizontal transfers, replacements and/or losses. We detected Sodalis-allied facultative symbionts in populations of the Curculionini weevils, which might represent potential evolutionary sources of the Sodalis-allied primary symbionts. Comparison of these newcomer bacteriocyte-associated symbiont lineages highlights potential evolutionary trajectories and consequences of novel symbionts after independent replacements of the same ancient symbiont.
Curculionidae; Curculioniphilus; Sodalis-allied symbiont; Nardonella; host-symbiont co-evolution; symbiont replacement
Whether fungal community structure depends more on historical factors or on contemporary factors is controversial. This study used culture-dependent and -independent (polymerase chain reaction-denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (PCR-DGGE)) methods to assess the influence of historical and contemporary factors on the distributions of fungi in the wetland sediments at 10 locations along the Changjiang River and at 10 other locations in China. The culture-dependent approach detected greater species diversity (177 operational taxonomic units (OTUs)) than PCR-DGGE analysis (145 OTUs), and the species in the genera of Penicillium (relative frequency=16.8%), Fusarium (15.4%), Aspergillus (7.6%), Trichoderma (5.8%) and Talaromyces (4.2%) were dominant. On the basis of DGGE data, fungal diversity along the Changjiang River increased from upstream to downstream; altitude explained 44.8% of this variation in diversity. And based on the data from all 20 locations, the fungal communities were geographically clustered into three groups: Southern China, Northern China and the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau. Multivariate regression tree analysis for data from the 20 locations indicated that the fungal community was influenced primarily by location (which explained 61.8% of the variation at a large scale), followed by total potassium (9.4%) and total nitrogen (3.5%) at a local scale. These results are consistent with the concept that geographic distance is the dominant factor driving variation in fungal diversity at a regional scale (1000–4000 km), whereas environmental factors (total potassium and total nitrogen) explain variation in fungal diversity at a local scale (<1000 km).
biogeography; contemporary disturbance; PCR-DGGE; culture-dependent method; fungal community; historical contingencies
Increasing evidence has emerged for non-random spatial distributions of microbes, but knowledge of the processes that cause variation in microbial assemblage among ecosystems is lacking. For instance, some studies showed that deterministic processes such as habitat specialization are important, while other studies hold that bacterial communities are assembled by stochastic forces. Here we examine the relative influence of deterministic and stochastic processes for bacterial communities from subsurface environments, stream biofilm, lake water, lake sediment and soil using pyrosequencing of the 16S ribosomal RNA gene. We show that there is a general pattern in phylogenetic signal in species ecological niches across recent evolutionary time for all studied habitats, enabling us to infer the influences of community assembly processes from patterns of phylogenetic turnover in community composition. The phylogenetic dissimilarities among-habitat types were significantly higher than within them, and the communities were clustered according to their original habitat types. For communities within-habitat types, the highest phylogenetic turnover rate through space was observed in subsurface environments, followed by stream biofilm on mountainsides, whereas the sediment assemblages across regional scales showed the lowest turnover rate. Quantifying phylogenetic turnover as the deviation from a null expectation suggested that measured environmental variables imposed strong selection on bacterial communities for nearly all sample groups. For three sample groups, spatial distance reflected unmeasured environmental variables that impose selection, as opposed to spatial isolation. Such characterization of spatial and environmental variables proved essential for proper interpretation of partial Mantel results based on observed beta diversity metrics. In summary, our results clearly indicate a dominant role of deterministic processes on bacterial assemblages and highlight that bacteria show strong habitat associations that have likely emerged through evolutionary adaptation.
bacteria; community composition; distance–decay relationship; evolutionary niche conservatism; neutral theory; phylogenetic beta diversity
Advances in next-generation sequencing technologies are providing longer nucleotide sequence reads that contain more information about phylogenetic relationships. We sought to use this information to understand the evolution and ecology of bacterioplankton at our long-term study site in the Western Sargasso Sea. A bioinformatics pipeline called PhyloAssigner was developed to align pyrosequencing reads to a reference multiple sequence alignment of 16S ribosomal RNA (rRNA) genes and assign them phylogenetic positions in a reference tree using a maximum likelihood algorithm. Here, we used this pipeline to investigate the ecologically important SAR11 clade of Alphaproteobacteria. A combined set of 2.7 million pyrosequencing reads from the 16S rRNA V1–V2 regions, representing 9 years at the Bermuda Atlantic Time-series Study (BATS) site, was quality checked and parsed into a comprehensive bacterial tree, yielding 929 036 Alphaproteobacteria reads. Phylogenetic structure within the SAR11 clade was linked to seasonally recurring spatiotemporal patterns. This analysis resolved four new SAR11 ecotypes in addition to five others that had been described previously at BATS. The data support a conclusion reached previously that the SAR11 clade diversified by subdivision of niche space in the ocean water column, but the new data reveal a more complex pattern in which deep branches of the clade diversified repeatedly across depth strata and seasonal regimes. The new data also revealed the presence of an unrecognized clade of Alphaproteobacteria, here named SMA-1 (Sargasso Mesopelagic Alphaproteobacteria, group 1), in the upper mesopelagic zone. The high-resolution phylogenetic analyses performed herein highlight significant, previously unknown, patterns of evolutionary diversification, within perhaps the most widely distributed heterotrophic marine bacterial clade, and strongly links to ecosystem regimes.
BATS; ecotype; pyrosequencing; SAR11
The stomach acts as a barrier to ingested microbes, thereby influencing the microbial ecology of the entire gastrointestinal (GI) tract. The stomach microbiota and the role of human host and environmental factors, such as health status or medications, in shaping its composition remain largely unknown. We sought to characterize the bacterial and fungal microbiota in the stomach fluid in order to gain insights into the role of the stomach in GI homeostasis. Gastric fluid was collected from 25 patients undergoing clinically indicated upper endoscopy. DNA isolates were used for PCR amplification of bacterial 16S ribosomal RNA (rRNA) genes and fungal internal transcribed spacers (ITS). RNA isolates were used for 16S rRNA cDNA generation and subsequent PCR amplification. While all stomach fluid samples are dominated by the phyla Firmicutes, Bacteroidetes, Actinobacteria, Proteobacteria and Fusobacteria (>99% of sequence reads), the transcriptionally active microbiota shows significant reduction in Actinobacteria (34%) and increase in Campylobacter (444%) (P<0.003), specifically the oral commensal and suspected intestinal pathogen Campylobacter concisus. Bacterial but not fungal diversity is reduced by antibiotic treatment (28% P<0.02), immunosuppression in transplant recipients and HIV/AIDS patients (42% P<0.001) and gastric fluid pH >4 (70% P<0.05). Immunosuppression correlates with decreased abundance of Prevotella (24%), Fusobacterium (2%) and Leptotrichia (6%) and increased abundance of Lactobacillus (3844%) (P<0.003). We have generated the first in-depth characterization of the human gastric fluid microbiota, using bacterial 16S rRNA gene and transcript, and fungal ITS amplicon sequencing and provide evidence for a significant impact of the host immune status on its composition with likely consequences for human health.
stomach fluid; microbiome; ITS; 16S rRNA; immunosuppression; Helicobacter pylori
Invasions by non-native plants can alter ecosystem functions and reduce native plant diversity, but relatively little is known about their effect on belowground microbial communities. We show that invasions by knapweed (Centaurea stoebe) and leafy spurge (Euphorbia esula, hereafter spurge)—but not cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum)—support a higher abundance and diversity of symbiotic arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) than multi-species native plant communities. The higher AMF richness associated with knapweed and spurge is unlikely due to a co-invasion by AMF, because a separate sampling showed that individual native forbs hosted a similar AMF abundance and richness as exotic forbs. Native grasses associated with fewer AMF taxa, which could explain the reduced AMF richness in native, grass-dominated communities. The three invasive plant species harbored distinct AMF communities, and analyses of co-occurring native and invasive plants indicate that differences were partly driven by the invasive plants and were not the result of pre-invasion conditions. Our results suggest that invasions by mycotrophic plants that replace poorer hosts can increase AMF abundance and richness. The high AMF richness in monodominant plant invasions also indicates that the proposed positive relationship between above and belowground diversity is not always strong. Finally, the disparate responses among exotic plants and consistent results between grasses and forbs suggest that AMF respond more to plant functional group than plant provenance.
arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi; community composition; diversity; native community; plant invasion; 454-sequencing
We surveyed the distribution and diversity of fungi associated with eight macroalgae from Antarctica and their capability to produce bioactive compounds. The collections yielded 148 fungal isolates, which were identified using molecular methods as belonging to 21 genera and 50 taxa. The most frequent taxa were Geomyces species (sp.), Penicillium sp. and Metschnikowia australis. Seven fungal isolates associated with the endemic Antarctic macroalgae Monostroma hariotii (Chlorophyte) displayed high internal transcribed spacer sequences similarities with the psychrophilic pathogenic fungus Geomyces destructans. Thirty-three fungal singletons (66%) were identified, representing rare components of the fungal communities. The fungal communities displayed high diversity, richness and dominance indices; however, rarefaction curves indicated that not all of the fungal diversity present was recovered. Penicillium sp. UFMGCB 6034 and Penicillium sp. UFMGCB 6120, recovered from the endemic species Palmaria decipiens (Rhodophyte) and M. hariotii, respectively, yielded extracts with high and selective antifungal and/or trypanocidal activities, in which a preliminary spectral analysis using proton nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy indicated the presence of highly functionalised aromatic compounds. These results suggest that the endemic and cold-adapted macroalgae of Antarctica shelter a rich, diversity and complex fungal communities consisting of a few dominant indigenous or mesophilic cold-adapted species, and a large number of rare and/or endemic taxa, which may provide an interesting model of algal–fungal interactions under extreme conditions as well as a potential source of bioactive compounds.
Antarctica; marine fungi; seaweeds; diversity; extremophiles
The healthy intestine is characterized by a low level of oxygen and by the presence of large bacterial communities of obligate anaerobes. Dysbiosis of the gut microbiota has been reported in patients suffering from inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs), but the mechanisms causing this imbalance remain unknown. Observations have included a decrease in obligate anaerobes of the phylum Firmicutes and an increase in facultative anaerobes, including members of the family Enterobacteriaceae. The shift of bacterial communities from obligate to facultative anaerobes strongly suggests a disruption in anaerobiosis and points to a role for oxygen in intestinal dysbiosis. Proposals to evaluate this hypothesis of a role for oxygen in IBD dysbiosis are provided. If this hypothesis is confirmed, decreasing oxygen in the intestine could open novel means to rebalance the microbiota and could provide novel preventative or therapeutic strategies for IBD patients in whom current treatments are ineffective.
anaerobiosis; dysbiosis; IBD; gut microbiota
Exploring molecular mechanisms underlying bacterial water-to-land transition represents a critical start toward a better understanding of the functioning and stability of the terrestrial ecosystems. Here, we perform comprehensive analyses based on a large variety of bacteria by integrating taxonomic, phylogenetic and metagenomic data, in the quest for a unified view that elucidates genomic, evolutionary and ecological dynamics of the marine progenitors in adapting to nonaquatic environments. We hypothesize that bacterial land colonization is dominated by a single-gene sweep, that is, the emergence of dnaE2 derived from an early duplication event of the primordial dnaE, followed by a series of niche-specific genomic adaptations, including GC content increase, intensive horizontal gene transfer and constant genome expansion. In addition, early bacterial radiation may be stimulated by an explosion of land-borne hosts (for example, plants and animals) after initial land colonization events.
adaptive mutagenesis; bacterial land colonization; GC content; genome expansion; HGT; metagenomics
Ribosomal RNA (rRNA) genes are widely utilized in depicting organismal diversity and distribution in a wide range of environments. Although a few cases of lateral transfer of rRNA genes between closely related prokaryotes have been reported, it remains to be reported from eukaryotes. Here, we report the first case of lateral transfer of eukaryotic rRNA genes. Two distinct sequences of the 18S rRNA gene were detected from a clonal culture of the stramenopile, Ciliophrys infusionum. One was clearly derived from Ciliophrys, but the other gene originated from a perkinsid alveolate. Genome-walking analyses revealed that this alveolate-type rRNA gene is immediately adjacent to two protein-coding genes (ubc12 and usp39), and the origin of both genes was shown to be a stramenopile (that is, Ciliophrys) in our phylogenetic analyses. These findings indicate that the alveolate-type rRNA gene is encoded on the Ciliophrys genome and that eukaryotic rRNA genes can be transferred laterally.
18S rRNA gene; environmental DNA; lateral gene transfer
The Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill in the spring of 2010 resulted in an input of ∼4.1 million barrels of oil to the Gulf of Mexico; >22% of this oil is unaccounted for, with unknown environmental consequences. Here we investigated the impact of oil deposition on microbial communities in surface sediments collected at 64 sites by targeted sequencing of 16S rRNA genes, shotgun metagenomic sequencing of 14 of these samples and mineralization experiments using 14C-labeled model substrates. The 16S rRNA gene data indicated that the most heavily oil-impacted sediments were enriched in an uncultured Gammaproteobacterium and a Colwellia species, both of which were highly similar to sequences in the DWH deep-sea hydrocarbon plume. The primary drivers in structuring the microbial community were nitrogen and hydrocarbons. Annotation of unassembled metagenomic data revealed the most abundant hydrocarbon degradation pathway encoded genes involved in degrading aliphatic and simple aromatics via butane monooxygenase. The activity of key hydrocarbon degradation pathways by sediment microbes was confirmed by determining the mineralization of 14C-labeled model substrates in the following order: propylene glycol, dodecane, toluene and phenanthrene. Further, analysis of metagenomic sequence data revealed an increase in abundance of genes involved in denitrification pathways in samples that exceeded the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)'s benchmarks for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) compared with those that did not. Importantly, these data demonstrate that the indigenous sediment microbiota contributed an important ecosystem service for remediation of oil in the Gulf. However, PAHs were more recalcitrant to degradation, and their persistence could have deleterious impacts on the sediment ecosystem.
DWH oil spill; hydrocarbons; iTag/Metagenomics; microbial community structure; sediments