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PLoS One. 2012;7(1):e30058. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0030058. Epub 2012 Jan 11.

Metagenomic analysis of the bioremediation of diesel-contaminated Canadian high arctic soils.

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National Research Council Canada, Biotechnology Research Institute, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.


As human activity in the Arctic increases, so does the risk of hydrocarbon pollution events. On site bioremediation of contaminated soil is the only feasible clean up solution in these remote areas, but degradation rates vary widely between bioremediation treatments. Most previous studies have focused on the feasibility of on site clean-up and very little attention has been given to the microbial and functional communities involved and their ecology. Here, we ask the question: which microorganisms and functional genes are abundant and active during hydrocarbon degradation at cold temperature? To answer this question, we sequenced the soil metagenome of an ongoing bioremediation project in Alert, Canada through a time course. We also used reverse-transcriptase real-time PCR (RT-qPCR) to quantify the expression of several hydrocarbon-degrading genes. Pseudomonas species appeared as the most abundant organisms in Alert soils right after contamination with diesel and excavation (t = 0) and one month after the start of the bioremediation treatment (t = 1m), when degradation rates were at their highest, but decreased after one year (t = 1y), when residual soil hydrocarbons were almost depleted. This trend was also reflected in hydrocarbon degrading genes, which were mainly affiliated with Gammaproteobacteria at t = 0 and t = 1m and with Alphaproteobacteria and Actinobacteria at t = 1y. RT-qPCR assays confirmed that Pseudomonas and Rhodococcus species actively expressed hydrocarbon degradation genes in Arctic biopile soils. Taken together, these results indicated that biopile treatment leads to major shifts in soil microbial communities, favoring aerobic bacteria that can degrade hydrocarbons.

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