Reduced TCA cycle rates at high hydrostatic pressure hinder hydrocarbon degradation and obligate oil degraders in natural, deep-sea microbial communities

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  • Alberto Scoma
  • Robert Heyer, Otto von Guericke University Magdeburg
  • ,
  • Ridwan Rifai, Universiteit Gent
  • ,
  • Christian Dandyk, Otto von Guericke University Magdeburg
  • ,
  • Ian Marshall
  • Frederiek Maarten Kerckhof, Universiteit Gent
  • ,
  • Angeliki Marietou
  • ,
  • Henricus T.S. Boshker, Delft University of Technology, Dept. of Biology, Universiteit Antwerpen
  • ,
  • Filip J.R. Meysman, Delft University of Technology, Dept. of Biology, Universiteit Antwerpen, Vrije Universiteit Brussel
  • ,
  • Kirsten G. Malmos
  • ,
  • Thomas Vosegaard
  • Pieter Vermeir, Universiteit Gent
  • ,
  • Ibrahim M. Banat, Ulster University
  • ,
  • Dirk Benndorf, Otto von Guericke University Magdeburg, Max Planck Institute for Dynamics of Complex Technical Systems
  • ,
  • Nico Boon, Universiteit Gent

Petroleum hydrocarbons reach the deep-sea following natural and anthropogenic factors. The process by which they enter deep-sea microbial food webs and impact the biogeochemical cycling of carbon and other elements is unclear. Hydrostatic pressure (HP) is a distinctive parameter of the deep sea, although rarely investigated. Whether HP alone affects the assembly and activity of oil-degrading communities remains to be resolved. Here we have demonstrated that hydrocarbon degradation in deep-sea microbial communities is lower at native HP (10 MPa, about 1000 m below sea surface level) than at ambient pressure. In long-term enrichments, increased HP selectively inhibited obligate hydrocarbon-degraders and downregulated the expression of beta-oxidation-related proteins (i.e., the main hydrocarbon-degradation pathway) resulting in low cell growth and CO2 production. Short-term experiments with HP-adapted synthetic communities confirmed this data, revealing a HP-dependent accumulation of citrate and dihydroxyacetone. Citrate accumulation suggests rates of aerobic oxidation of fatty acids in the TCA cycle were reduced. Dihydroxyacetone is connected to citrate through glycerol metabolism and glycolysis, both upregulated with increased HP. High degradation rates by obligate hydrocarbon-degraders may thus be unfavourable at increased HP, explaining their selective suppression. Through lab-scale cultivation, the present study is the first to highlight a link between impaired cell metabolism and microbial community assembly in hydrocarbon degradation at high HP. Overall, this data indicate that hydrocarbons fate differs substantially in surface waters as compared to deep-sea environments, with in situ low temperature and limited nutrients availability expected to further prolong hydrocarbons persistence at deep sea.

Original languageEnglish
JournalISME Journal
Pages (from-to)1004-1018
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2019

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