Navigation Links
Scientists identify microbes responsible for consuming natural gas in Deepwater Horizon spill
Date:10/4/2011

In the results of a new study, scientists explain how they used DNA to identify microbes present in the Gulf of Mexico following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill -- and the particular microbes responsible for consuming natural gas immediately after the spill.

Water temperature played a key role in the way bacteria reacted to the spill, the researchers found.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) published the results in this week's journal.

David Valentine and Molly Redmond, geochemists at the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB) conducted the study. The National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Department of Energy supported it.

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill was unique, according to Valentine and Redmond, because it happened at such great depth and contained so much natural gas -- predominantly methane, ethane and propane.

Those factors influenced the way bacteria responded to the spill.

In earlier studies, Valentine, Redmond and colleagues showed that ethane and propane were the major hydrocarbon compounds consumed in June 2010, two months after the April spill.

By September 2010, the researchers discovered that these gases and all the methane had been consumed.

In May and June of 2010, the scientists found that bacterial communities in the submerged plume were dominated by just a few types -- Oceanospirillales, Colwellia and Cycloclasticus -- and were very different from control samples without large concentrations of oil or gas.

The bacteria were also very different from the microbial communities in surface oil slicks collected at the same time.

"It's much warmer at the surface than in the deep water -- around 80 degrees Fahrenheit versus 40 F, which is pretty close to the temperature in your refrigerator," said Redmond, the PNAS paper's lead author.

"There was very little natural gas in the surface samples, suggesting that both temperature and natural gas could be important in determining which bacteria bloomed after the spill," she said.

The bacteria she and Valentine saw in the deep-water samples in May and June were related to types of psychrophilic, or cold-loving bacteria.

"Most bacteria grow more slowly at cooler temperatures -- that's why we keep our food in the refrigerator," said Redmond. "But psychrophilic bacteria actually grow faster at cold temperatures than they would at room temperature."

To provide additional evidence of the importance of temperature, the scientists added oil to water from the Gulf, and incubated it at 40 F and at room temperature (about 70 F). They looked at which bacteria grew at the different temperatures.

In the 40 F samples, Colwellia were most abundant, but were only found in low numbers in the room temperature samples, suggesting that the bacteria have an advantage in cold water.

"To figure out which bacteria were consuming methane, ethane, and propane, we used a technique called stable isotope probing, in which we incubated fresh seawater samples from the Gulf with isotopically labeled methane, ethane, or propane," Redmond said.

The bacteria that grew as they consumed the methane, ethane or propane converted the labeled gases into biomass, including their DNA. By sequencing the DNA, the scientists were able to identify the bacteria.

The bacteria that consumed the ethane and propane were the same Colwellia in the samples from May and June, when ethane and propane consumption rates were high. They were abundant when the researchers incubated oil at 40 F, but not at room temperature.

This suggests, say Valentine and Redmond, that the Colwellia grow well at low temperatures, and can consume ethane and propane.

"The ability of oil-eating bacteria to grow with natural gas as their 'foodstuff' is important," said Valentine, "because these bacteria may have reached high numbers by eating the more-abundant gas, then turned their attention to other components of the oil.

"We've uncovered some of the relationships between hydrocarbons released from Deepwater Horizon and the bacteria that responded," he said.

But questions remain about how the bacteria interacted with one another, and how this affected the fate of the oil.

"This work continues to remind us that the ocean, its microbes, and petroleum hydrocarbons share an ecological history that extends far into the geological past," said Don Rice, director of NSF's chemical oceanography program, which funded the research.

"Our ability to respond to marine oil spills is enormously advanced by this kind of basic research."


'/>"/>
Contact: Cheryl Dybas
cdybas@nsf.gov
703-292-7734
National Science Foundation
Source:Eurekalert  

Related biology news :

1. Jefferson scientists deliver toxic genes to effectively kill pancreatic cancer cells
2. Scientists identify novel inhibitor of human microRNA
3. Argonne scientists peer into heart of compound that may detect chemical, biological weapons
4. MU scientists go green with gold, distribute environmentally friendly nanoparticles
5. Scientists identify gene that may contribute to improved rice yield
6. Scientists discover why a mothers high-fat diet contributes to obesity in her children
7. MU scientists see how HIV matures into an infection
8. Earth scientists keep an eye on Texas
9. Thinking it through: Scientists call for policy to guide biofuels industry toward sustainability
10. Scientists identify a molecule that coordinates the movement of cells
11. Scientists Find new migratory patterns for Mediterranean and Western Atlantic bluefin tuna
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
Related Image:
Scientists identify microbes responsible for consuming natural gas in Deepwater Horizon spill
(Date:6/20/2016)... DALLAS , June 20, 2016 ... criminal justice technology solutions for public safety, investigation, ... by the prisons involved, it has secured the ... Corrections (DOC) facilities for Managed Access Systems (MAS) ... (4) additional facilities to be installed by October, ...
(Date:6/15/2016)... New York , June 15, 2016 /PRNewswire/ ... a new market report titled "Gesture Recognition Market by ... and Forecast, 2016 - 2024". According to the report, ... USD 11.60 billion in 2015 and is estimated ... reach USD 48.56 billion by 2024.  ...
(Date:6/9/2016)... , June 9, 2016 ... Police deploy Teleste,s video security solution to ensure the safety ... France during the major tournament Teleste, ... communications systems and services, announced today that its video security ... to back up public safety across the country. ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/23/2016)... (PRWEB) , ... June 23, 2016 , ... ... the release of its second eBook, “Clinical Trials Patient Recruitment and Retention Tips.” ... and retention in this eBook by providing practical tips, tools, and strategies for ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... June 23, 2016 Houston Methodist Willowbrook ... Cy-Fair Sports Association to serve as their official ... Houston Methodist Willowbrook will provide sponsorship support, athletic ... with association coaches, volunteers, athletes and families. ... Cy-Fair Sports Association and to bring Houston Methodist ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... June 23, 2016 , ... Supplyframe, the Industry Network ... Supplyframe Design Lab . Located in Pasadena, Calif., the Design Lab’s mission is ... projects are designed, built and brought to market. , The Design Lab is ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... Andrew D Zelenetz ... Published recently in Oncology ... touchONCOLOGY, Andrew D Zelenetz , discusses the ... is placing an increasing burden on healthcare systems ... With the patents on many biologics expiring, interest ...
Breaking Biology Technology: