Title

Behavior of Marine Bacteria in Clean Environment and Oil Spill Conditions

Document Type

Article

Date of Original Version

7-31-2018

Abstract

Alcanivorax borkumensis is a bacterial community that dominates hydrocarbon-degrading communities around many oil spills. The physicochemical conditions that prompt bacterial binding to oil/water interfaces are not well understood. To provide key insights into this process, A. borkumensis cells were cultured either in a clean environment condition (dissolved organic carbon) or in an oil spill condition (hexadecane as the sole energy source). The ability of these bacteria to bind to the oil/water interface was monitored through interfacial tension measurements, bacterial cell hydrophobicity, and fluorescence microscopy. Our experiments show that A. borkumensis cells cultured in clean environment conditions remain hydrophilic and do not show significant transport or binding to the oil/water interface. In sharp contrast, bacteria cultured in oil spill conditions become partially hydrophobic and their amphiphilicity drives them to oil/water interfaces, where they reduce interfacial tension and form the early stages of a biofilm. We show that it is A. borkumensis cells that attach to the oil/water interface and not a synthesized biosurfactant that is released into solution that reduces interfacial tension. This study provides key insights into the physicochemical properties that allow A. borkumensis to adhere to oil/water interfaces.

Publication Title

Langmuir

Volume

34

Issue

30

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