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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.
Development and application of a real-time PCR approach for quantification of uncultured bacteria in the central Baltic Sea.We have developed a highly sensitive approach to assess the abundance of uncultured bacteria in water samples from the central Baltic Sea by using a noncultured member of the "Epsilonproteobacteria" related to Thiomicrospira denitrificans as an example. Environmental seawater samples and samples enriched for the target taxon provided a unique opportunity to test the approach over a broad range of abundances. The approach is based on a combination of taxon- and domain-specific real-time PCR measurements determining the relative T. denitrificans-like 16S rRNA gene and 16S rRNA abundances, as well as the determination of total cell counts and environmental RNA content. It allowed quantification of T. denitrificans-like 16S rRNA molecules or 16S rRNA genes as well as calculation of the number of ribosomes per T. denitrificans-like cell. Every real-time measurement and its specific primer system were calibrated using environmental nucleic acids obtained from the original habitat for external standardization. These standards, as well as the respective samples to be measured, were prepared from the same DNA or RNA extract. Enrichment samples could be analyzed directly, whereas environmental templates had to be preamplified with general bacterial primers before quantification. Preamplification increased the sensitivity of the assay by more than 4 orders of magnitude. Quantification of enrichments with or without a preamplification step yielded comparable results. T. denitrificans-like 16S rRNA molecules ranged from 7.1 x 10(3) to 4.4 x 10(9) copies ml(-1) or 0.002 to 49.7% relative abundance. T. denitrificans-like 16S rRNA genes ranged from 9.0 x 10(1) to 2.2 x10(6) copies ml(-1) or 0.01 to 49.7% relative abundance. Detection limits of this real-time-PCR approach were 20 16S rRNA molecules or 0.2 16S rRNA gene ml(-1). The number of ribosomes per T. denitrificans-like cell was estimated to range from 20 to 200 in seawater and reached up to 2,000 in the enrichments. The results indicate that our real-time PCR approach can be used to determine cellular and relative abundances of uncultured marine bacterial taxa and to provide information about their levels of activity in their natural environment.
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.