Special Issue "Genetics and Physiology of Anaerobic Hydrocarbon-Degrading Microorganisms"

A special issue of Microorganisms (ISSN 2076-2607). This special issue belongs to the section "Environmental Microbiology".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 15 October 2019

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Dr. Christopher Marks

Robert S. Kerr Environmental Research Center, US Environmental Protection Agency, 919 Kerr Research Dr, Ada, OK 74820, USA

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The microbial degradation of hydrocarbons under anoxic conditions has significant impacts at the intersection of human industrial activities and the environment. Anaerobic hydrocarbon-degrading organisms can provide beneficial services through the remediation of accidental petroleum and refined fuel releases into the environment, as well as increase extractable hydrocarbons from reservoirs as part of microbiologically-enhanced energy recovery. Conversely, biodegradation can have adverse effects on crude oil quality and the stability of refined fossil fuel stores and it can be detrimental to petroleum production, refining, and storage infrastructure through biofouling and biocorrosion activities. The past few decades have seen dramatic advances in our knowledge of the taxa capable of anaerobic hydrocarbon metabolism and the physiological mechanisms underlying these activities. To date, described species capable of the anoxic catabolism of hydrocarbons have been identified from several different phyla and from a diverse array of habitat types including marine, groundwater, and engineered systems. Hydrocarbon-degrading taxa have been shown to typically have a narrow substrate range for each organism, but compounds from the aliphatic, mono-, and polyaromatic classes have all been demonstrated to be utilizable growth substrates. Studies on the relationship between hydrocarbon structure and the initial mechanism of activation have revealed that alkylated substrates tend to undergo initial addition to fumarate via a glycyl radical mechanism while unsubstituted aromatics are more likely to undergo carboxylation of the ring as the initial catabolic step. Despite the many important advances that been made in this area over the past many years, there remains a dearth of genomes from cultivated anaerobic hydrocarbon-degrading taxa and fundamental questions about the physiology of these organisms and its impact upon their community and functional ecology still remain.

For this Special Issue of Microorganisms, I invite you to submit contributions relating to the physiology of anaerobic hydrocarbon-degrading microorganisms ranging from the genetic to the metabolic. Continued advances in omics-technologies have made novel investigations into fundamental cellular processes possible not only for axenic cultures but also for entire communities. These advances in our understanding of the mechanisms of anaerobic hydrocarbon metabolism continue to play important roles in the remediation of petroleum-contaminated sites and the protection of energy production infrastructure.

Dr. Christopher Marks
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

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Published Papers (1 paper)

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Open AccessArticle Dynamics of Hydrology and Anaerobic Hydrocarbon Degrader Communities in A Tar-Oil Contaminated Aquifer
Microorganisms 2019, 7(2), 46; https://doi.org/10.3390/microorganisms7020046
Received: 21 December 2018 / Revised: 30 January 2019 / Accepted: 6 February 2019 / Published: 9 February 2019
PDF Full-text (2198 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text | Supplementary Files
Aquifers are typically perceived as rather stable habitats, characterized by low biogeochemical and microbial community dynamics. Upon contamination, aquifers shift to a perturbed ecological status, in which specialized populations of contaminant degraders establish and mediate aquifer restoration. However, the ecological controls of such [...] Read more.
Aquifers are typically perceived as rather stable habitats, characterized by low biogeochemical and microbial community dynamics. Upon contamination, aquifers shift to a perturbed ecological status, in which specialized populations of contaminant degraders establish and mediate aquifer restoration. However, the ecological controls of such degrader populations, and possible feedbacks between hydraulic and microbial habitat components, remain poorly understood. Here, we provide evidence of such couplings, via 4 years of annual sampling of groundwater and sediments across a high-resolution depth-transect of a hydrocarbon plume. Specialized anaerobic degrader populations are known to be established at the reactive fringes of the plume. Here, we show that fluctuations of the groundwater table were paralleled by pronounced dynamics of biogeochemical processes, pollutant degradation, and plume microbiota. Importantly, a switching in maximal relative abundance between dominant degrader populations within the Desulfobulbaceae and Desulfosporosinus spp. was observed after hydraulic dynamics. Thus, functional redundancy amongst anaerobic hydrocarbon degraders could have been relevant in sustaining biodegradation processes after hydraulic fluctuations. These findings contribute to an improved ecological perspective of contaminant plumes as a dynamic microbial habitat, with implications for both monitoring and remediation strategies in situ. Full article

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