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Obligate oil-degrading marine bacteria.Over the past few years, a new and ecophysiologically unusual group of marine hydrocarbon-degrading bacteria - the obligate hydrocarbonoclastic bacteria (OHCB) - has been recognized and shown to play a significant role in the biological removal of petroleum hydrocarbons from polluted marine waters. The introduction of oil or oil constituents into seawater leads to successive blooms of a relatively limited number of indigenous marine bacterial genera--Alcanivorax, Marinobacter, Thallassolituus, Cycloclasticus, Oleispira and a few others (the OHCB)--which are present at low or undetectable levels before the polluting event. The types of OHCB that bloom depend on the latitude/temperature, salinity, redox and other prevailing physical-chemical factors. These blooms result in the rapid degradation of many oil constituents, a process that can be accelerated further by supplementation with limiting nutrients. Genome sequencing and functional genomic analysis of Alcanivorax borkumensis, the paradigm of OHCB, has provided significant insights into the genomic basis of the efficiency and versatility of its hydrocarbon utilization, the metabolic routes underlying its special hydrocarbon diet, and its ecological success. These and other studies have revealed the potential of OHCB for multiple biotechnological applications that include not only oil pollution mitigation, but also biopolymer production and biocatalysis.