Rapid Response of Eastern Mediterranean Deep Sea Microbial Communities to Oil

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© 2017 The Author(s). Deep marine oil spills like the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) in the Gulf of Mexico have the potential to drastically impact marine systems. Crude oil contamination in marine systems remains a concern, especially for countries around the Mediterranean Sea with off shore oil production. The goal of this study was to investigate the response of indigenous microbial communities to crude oil in the deep Eastern Mediterranean Sea (E. Med.) water column and to minimize potential bias associated with storage and shifts in microbial community structure from sample storage. 16S rRNA amplicon sequencing was combined with GeoChip metagenomic analysis to monitor the microbial community changes to the crude oil and dispersant in on-ship microcosms set up immediately after water collection. After 3 days of incubation at 14 °C, the microbial communities from two different water depths: 824 m and 1210 m became dominated by well-known oil degrading bacteria. The archaeal population and the overall microbial community diversity drastically decreased. Similarly, GeoChip metagenomic analysis revealed a tremendous enrichment of genes related to oil biodegradation, which was consistent with the results from the DWH oil spill. These results highlight a rapid microbial adaption to oil contamination in the deep E. Med., and indicate strong oil biodegradation potential.

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Scientific Reports