Interaction of Alcanivorax borkumensis with a surfactant decorated oil-water interface

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Alcanivorax borkumensis is a hydrocarbon degrading bacterium linked to oil degradation around oil spill sites. It is known to be a surface bacterium leading to substantial interaction with the oil-water interface. Because of its abundance in oil spill regions, it has great potential to be used actively in oil spill remediation. Dispersants are thought to be important in the creation of oil-in-water emulsions that are meant to aid in the biodegradation process by bacteria. Although it is likely that some sort of dispersant will be used again in the case of another oil spill, to date, no studies have shown the impact of dispersants on the bacteria population. Corexit 9500 was the main dispersant used during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, but little is known about its effect on the bacteria community. We built an experimental platform to quantitatively measure the transient growth of Alcanivorax borkumensis at the interface of oil and water. To our knowledge, this is the first study of how A. borkumensis interacts with a surfactant decorated oil-water interface. We use COREXIT EC9500A, cetylytrimethylamonium bromide, dioctyl sulfosuccinate sodium salt, l-α-phosphatidylcholine, sodium dodecyl sulfate, and Tween 20 to investigate the impact of dispersants on Alcanivorax borkumensis. We assess the impact of these dispersants on the growth rate, lag time, and maximum concentration of Alcanivorax borkumensis. We show that the charge, structure, and surface activity of these surfactants greatly impact the growth of A. borkumensis. Our results indicated that out of the surfactants tested only Tween 20 assists Acanivorax borkumensis growth. The results of this study will be important in the decision of dispersant use in the future.

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