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Int Microbiol. 2006 Jun;9(2):119-24.

Presence of opportunistic oil-degrading microorganisms operating at the initial steps of oil extraction and handling.

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Department of Genetics and Microbiology, Autonomous University of Barcelona, Bellaterra, Spain.


Hydrocarbon-degrading microorganisms from natural environments have been isolated and identified using culture-dependent or molecular techniques. However, there has been little research into the occurrence of microorganisms incorporated into crude oil in the initial steps of extraction and handling, which can reduce the quality of stored petroleum. In the present study, a packed-column reactor filled with autoclaved perlite soaked with crude oil was subjected to a continuous flow of sterile medium in order to determine the presence of potential hydrocarbon degraders. Microorganisms developed on the surface of the perlite within a period of 73 days. DNA was extracted from the biofilm and then PCR-amplified using 16S rRNA bacterial and archaeal primers and 18S rRNA eukaryotic primers. No amplification was obtained using archaeal primers. However, denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) revealed the presence of unique bands indicating bacterial and eukaryotic amplification. Excision of these bands, sequencing, and subsequent BLAST search showed that they corresponded to Bacillus sp. and Aspergillus versicolor. The fungus was later isolated from intact perlite in agar plates. A bacterial clone library was used to confirm the presence in the biofilm of a unique hydrocarbon-degrading bacterium closely related to Bacillus sp. Analysis of the petroleum components by gas chromatography showed that there n-alkanes, aromatic hydrocarbons, and carbazoles were degraded.

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