Thermophilic endospores associated with migrated thermogenic hydrocarbons in deep Gulf of Mexico marine sediments Journal Article uri icon

DCO ID 11121/5458-6716-5589-1317-CC

is Contribution to the DCO

  • YES

year of publication

  • 2018


  • Dormant endospores of thermophilic bacteria (thermospores) can be detected in cold marine sediments following high-temperature incubation. Thermospores in the cold seabed may be explained by a dispersal history originating in deep biosphere oil reservoir habitats where upward migration of petroleum fluids at hydrocarbon seeps transports viable cells into the overlying ocean. We assessed this deep-to-shallow dispersal hypothesis through geochemical and microbiological analyses of 111 marine sediments from the deep water Eastern Gulf of Mexico. GC-MS and fluorescence confirmed the unambiguous presence of thermogenic hydrocarbons in 71 of these locations, indicating seepage from deeply sourced petroleum in the subsurface. Heating each sediment to 50 °C followed by 16S rRNA gene sequencing revealed several thermospores with a cosmopolitan distribution throughout the study area, as well as thermospores that were more geographically restricted. Among the thermospores having a more limited distribution, 12 OTUs from eight different lineages were repeatedly detected in sediments containing thermogenic hydrocarbons. A subset of these were significantly correlated with hydrocarbons (p < 0.05) and most closely related to Clostridiales previously detected in oil reservoirs from around the world. This provides evidence of bacteria in the ocean being dispersed out of oil reservoirs, and suggests that specific thermospores may be used as model organisms for studying warm-to-cold transmigration in the deep sea.


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