Identification of nitrogen-incorporating bacteria in petroleum-contaminated arctic soils by using [15N]DNA-based stable isotope probing and pyrosequencing

Terrence H. Bell, Etienne Yergeau, Christine Martineau, David Juck, Lyle G. Whyte, Charles W. Greer

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102 Scopus citations


Arctic soils are increasingly susceptible to petroleum hydrocarbon contamination, as exploration and exploitation of the Arctic increase. Bioremediation in these soils is challenging due to logistical constraints and because soil temperatures only rise above 0°C for ~2 months each year. Nitrogen is often added to contaminated soil in situ to stimulate the existing microbial community, but little is known about how the added nutrients are used by these microorganisms. Microbes vary widely in their ability to metabolize petroleum hydrocarbons, so the question becomes: which hydrocarbon-degrading microorganisms most effectively use this added nitrogen for growth? Using [15N]DNA-based stable isotope probing, we determined which taxonomic groups most readily incorporated nitrogen from the monoammonium phosphate added to contaminated and uncontaminated soil in Canadian Forces Station-Alert, Nunavut, Canada. Fractions from each sample were amplified with bacterial 16S rRNA and alkane monooxygenase B (alkB) gene-specific primers and then sequenced using lage-scale parallel-pyrosequencing. Sequence data was combined with 16S rRNA and alkB gene C quantitative PCR data to measure the presence of various phylogenetic groups in fractions at different buoyant densities. Several families of Proteobacteria and Actinobacteria that are directly involved in petroleum degradation incorporated the added nitrogen in contaminated soils, but it was the DNA of Sphingomonadaceae that was most enriched in 15N. Bacterial growth in uncontaminated soils was not stimulated by nutrient amendment. Our results suggest that nitrogen uptake efficiency differs between bacterial groups in contaminated soils. A better understanding of how groups of hydrocarbon-degraders contribute to the catabolism of petroleum will facilitate the design of more targeted bioremediation treatments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4163-4171
Number of pages9
JournalApplied and environmental microbiology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Jun 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biotechnology
  • Food Science
  • Ecology
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology


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