Research Topic

The metabolic pathways and environmental controls of hydrocarbon biodegradation in marine ecosystems.

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Biodegradation mediated by indigenous microbial communities is the ultimate fate of the majority of oil hydrocarbon that enters the marine environment. Much progress has been made to determine the response of specific microbial taxa to oil discharge in marine environments impacted by oil spills or natural ...

Biodegradation mediated by indigenous microbial communities is the ultimate fate of the majority of oil hydrocarbon that enters the marine environment. Much progress has been made to determine the response of specific microbial taxa to oil discharge in marine environments impacted by oil spills or natural seeps. The majority of studies of hydrocarbon-degrading microorganisms have been conducted in laboratory cultures, which has provided an initial understanding of the microbial communities response to environmental stimuli such as the presence of oil hydrocarbons. However, in-situ characterization of hydrocarbon-degrading microbial communities was hampered until recently by a limited phylogenetic resolution and depth of coverage due to practical limitations of molecular techniques. Advances in next generation sequencing technologies, stable isotope tracers, and bioinformatics have greatly improved our ability to interrogate the phylogenetic and functional diversity of hydrocarbon-degrading microorganisms in the field. The development and application of omic approaches has led to the characterization of novel biochemical pathways of biogeochemical significance. Stable isotope probing is employed to directly link the phylogeny of active microorganisms with their metabolic function. This special topic will focus on research that utilizes the latest molecular and biogeochemical techniques, (including high throughput sequencing, isotope tracers, and omic approaches) and integrates these approaches with microbiological and biochemical studies to render a predictive understanding of the biogeochemical processes and metabolic pathways that in turn regulate the impacts and biodegradation of petroleum hydrocarbons released into the marine environment. Participation will be encouraged from researchers that employ interdisciplinary approaches including field observations, experimentation, technology development, and numerical modeling.


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