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Aquatic Microbial Ecology

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AME 64:185-195 (2011)  -  DOI:

Exploring hydrocarbonoclastic bacterial ­communities in the estuarine surface microlayer

Francisco J. R. C. Coelho1, Sara Sousa2, Luísa Santos1, Ana L. Santos1 Adelaide Almeida1, Newton C. M. Gomes1, Ângela Cunha1,*

1Department of Biology & CESAM, University of Aveiro, Campus de Santiago, 3810-193 Aveiro, Portugal
2Department of Biology, University of Aveiro, Campus de Santiago, 3810-193 Aveiro, Portugal
*Corresponding author. Email:

ABSTRACT: Bacteria that degrade polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in the estuarine surface microlayer (SML) of the Ria de Aveiro, Portugal—which is chronically polluted with oil hydrocarbons (OH)—were isolated and characterized; Pseudomonas was dominant among the PAH-degrading bacteria. Screening for PAH dioxygenase genes detected almost identical nahAc genes (encoding the alpha subunits of naphthalene dioxygenase) in 2 phylogenetically distinct isolates: Pseudomonas sp. and an unknown species of the family Enterobacteriaceae; this suggested that horizontal transfer of nah genes might be involved in PAH degradation in the SML. We also investigated the effect of PAH contamination on the spatial variability of the bacterioneuston along a gradient of pollution in the estuarine system of the Ria de Aveiro. Culture-independent techniques—fluorescence in situ hy­bridization (FISH) and denaturing-gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE)—revealed a similar structure among the bacterioneuston communities along the estuary. In contrast, we detected differences in the relative abundance and diversity of organisms of the Gammaproteobacteria, including those of the genus Pseudomonas (which belongs to the Gammaproteobacteria). This is the first insight into the hydrocarbonoclastic bacterial communities in the SML of an estuarine area polluted with hydrocarbons. Our findings highlight the importance of SML-adapted hydrocarbonoclastic bacterioneuston as a potential source of new PAH-degrading bacteria (including new pseudomonads) with potential use in the bioremediation of hydrocarbon-polluted ecosystems.

KEY WORDS: Sea surface microlayer · Bacterioneuston · Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons · PAH degradation

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Cite this article as: Coelho FJRC, Sousa S, Santos L, Almeida ALSA, Gomes NCM, Cunha  (2011) Exploring hydrocarbonoclastic bacterial ­communities in the estuarine surface microlayer. Aquat Microb Ecol 64:185-195.

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