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The Deepwater Horizon incident in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 released an unprecedented amount of petroleum hydrocarbons 1500 meters below the sea surface. Few studies have considered the influence of hydrostatic pressure on bacterial community development and activity during such spills. The goal of this study was to investigate the response of indigenous sediment microbial communities to the combination of increased pressure, hydrocarbons and dispersant. Deep-sea sediment samples collected from the northern Gulf of Mexico were incubated at atmospheric pressure (0.1 MPa) and at elevated pressure (10 MPa), with and without the addition of crude oil and dispersant. After incubations at 4 °C for 7 days, Colwellia and Psychrobium were highly abundant in all samples. Pressure differentially impacted members of the Alteromonadales. The influences of pressure on the composition of bacterial communities were most pronounced when dispersant was added to the incubations. Moritella and Thalassotalea were greatly stimulated by the addition of dispersant, suggesting their roles in dispersant biodegradation. However, Moritella was negatively impacted by increasing pressure. The presence of dispersant was shown to decrease the relative abundance of a known hydrocarbon degrader, Cycloclasticus, while increasing pressure increased its relative abundance. This study highlights the significant influence of pressure on the development of microbial communities in the presence of oil and dispersant during oil spills and related response strategies in the deep sea.


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Effect of elevated pressure on microbial communities from the Gulf of Mexico

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Scientific Reports, v. 10, art. 7079