McGenity ea 2012 Marine crude-oil biodegradation- a central role for interspecies interactions

McGenity ea 2012 Marine crude-oil biodegradation- a central role for interspecies interactions

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REVIEW Open Access Marine crude-oil biodegradation: a central role for interspecies interactions Terry J McGenity * , Benjamin D Folwell, Boyd A McKew and Gbemisola O Sanni Abstract The marine environment is highly susceptible to pollution by petroleum, and so it is important to understand how microorganisms degrade hydrocarbons, and thereby mitigate ecosystem damage. Our understanding about the ecology, physiology, biochemistry and genetics of oil-degrading bacteria and fungi has increased greatly in recent decades; however, individual populations of microbes do not function alone in nature. The diverse array of hydrocarbons present in crude oil requires resource partitioning by microbial populations, and microbial modification of oil components and the surrounding environment will lead to temporal succession. But even when just one type of hydrocarbon is present, a network of direct and indirect interactions within and between species is observed. In this review we consider competition for resources, but focus on some of the key cooperative interactions: consumption of metabolites, biosurfactant production, provision of oxygen and fixed nitrogen. The emphasis is largely on aerobic processes, and especially interactions between bacteria, fungi and microalgae. The self-construction of a functioning community is central to microbial success, and learning how such microbial modules interact will be pivotal to enhancing biotechnological processes, including the bioremediation of hydrocarbons. Keywords: Hydrocarbon, Crude oil, Salt marsh, Marine microbiology, Biodegradation, Bioremediation, Microbial interactions, Biogeochemistry, Alcanivorax The problem of marine oil pollution Our seas, oceans and coastal zones are under great stress; and pollution, particularly by crude oil, remains a major threat to the sustainability of planet Earth [1]. An estimated 1.3 million tonnes of petroleum enters the marine environ- ment each year [2]. Acute pollution incidents cause great public concern, notably ~600,000 tonnes of crude oil released after the Deepwater Horizon explosion in the Gulf of Mexico [3] and ~63,000 tonnes from the Prestige oil- tanker [4] off the coast of north-west Spain. The fate of crude oil spilled at sea (Figure 1) depends on both the prevailing weather and the composition of the oil; but its environmental impact is exacerbated on reaching the shore- line, especially in low-energy habitats, such as lagoons and salt marshes. Acute pollution events can result in mass mortality; for example, more than 66% of total species richness (including polychaetes, molluscs, crustaceans and insects) was lost in the worst affected beaches following the Prestige spill [5]. Hydrocarbons also contaminate the feath- ers and fur of marine birds and mammals, resulting in the loss of hydrophobic properties, leading to death from hypothermia [6], or lethal doses following ingestion of oil during preening.
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