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Analysis of storage lipid accumulation in Alcanivorax borkumensis: Evidence for alternative triacylglycerol biosynthesis routes in bacteria.Marine hydrocarbonoclastic bacteria, like Alcanivorax borkumensis, play a globally important role in bioremediation of petroleum oil contamination in marine ecosystems. Accumulation of storage lipids, serving as endogenous carbon and energy sources during starvation periods, might be a potential adaptation mechanism for coping with nutrient limitation, which is a frequent stress factor challenging those bacteria in their natural marine habitats. Here we report on the analysis of storage lipid biosynthesis in A. borkumensis strain SK2. Triacylglycerols (TAGs) and wax esters (WEs), but not poly(hydroxyalkanoic acids), are the principal storage lipids present in this and other hydrocarbonoclastic bacterial species. Although so far assumed to be a characteristic restricted to gram-positive actinomycetes, substantial accumulation of TAGs corresponding to a fatty acid content of more than 23% of the cellular dry weight is the first characteristic of large-scale de novo TAG biosynthesis in a gram-negative bacterium. The acyltransferase AtfA1 (ABO_2742) exhibiting wax ester synthase/acyl-coenzyme A:diacylglycerol acyltransferase (WS/DGAT) activity plays a key role in both TAG and WE biosynthesis, whereas AtfA2 (ABO_1804) was dispensable for storage lipid formation. However, reduced but still substantial residual TAG levels in atfA1 and atfA2 knockout mutants compellingly indicate the existence of a yet unknown WS/DGAT-independent alternative TAG biosynthesis route. Storage lipids of A. borkumensis were enriched in saturated fatty acids and accumulated as insoluble intracytoplasmic inclusions exhibiting great structural variety. Storage lipid accumulation provided only a slight growth advantage during short-term starvation periods but was not required for maintaining viability and long-term persistence during extended starvation phases.
Characterization of marine isoprene-degrading communities.Isoprene is a volatile and climate-altering hydrocarbon with an atmospheric concentration similar to that of methane. It is well established that marine algae produce isoprene; however, until now there was no specific information about marine isoprene sinks. Here we demonstrate isoprene consumption in samples from temperate and tropical marine and coastal environments, and furthermore show that the most rapid degradation of isoprene coincides with the highest rates of isoprene production in estuarine sediments. Isoprene-degrading enrichment cultures, analysed by denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis and 454 pyrosequencing of the 16S rRNA gene and by culturing, were generally dominated by Actinobacteria, but included other groups such as Alphaproteobacteria and Bacteroidetes, previously not known to degrade isoprene. In contrast to specialist methane-oxidizing bacteria, cultivated isoprene degraders were nutritionally versatile, and nearly all of them were able to use n-alkanes as a source of carbon and energy. We therefore tested and showed that the ubiquitous marine hydrocarbon-degrader, Alcanivorax borkumensis, could also degrade isoprene. A mixture of the isolates consumed isoprene emitted from algal cultures, confirming that isoprene can be metabolized at low, environmentally relevant concentrations, and suggesting that, in the absence of spilled petroleum hydrocarbons, algal production of isoprene could maintain viable populations of hydrocarbon-degrading microbes. This discovery of a missing marine sink for isoprene is the first step in obtaining more robust predictions of its flux, and suggests that algal-derived isoprene provides an additional source of carbon for diverse microbes in the oceans.
Transcriptional profiling of the marine oil-degrading bacterium Alcanivorax borkumensis during growth on n-alkanes.The marine oil-degrading bacterium Alcanivorax borkumensis SK2 has attracted significant interest due to its hydrocarbonoclastic lifestyle, its alkane-centered metabolism, and for playing an important ecological role in cleaning up marine oil spills. In this study, we used microarray technology to characterize the transcriptional responses of A. borkumensis to n-hexadecane exposure as opposed to pyruvate, which led to the identification of a total of 220 differentially expressed genes, with 109 genes being upregulated and 111 genes being downregulated. Among the genes upregulated on alkanes are systems predicted to be involved in the terminal oxidation of alkanes, biofilm formation, signal transduction, and regulation.