Why Are Bacterial Isolates Are Capable Of Breaking Down Specific Hydrocarbons And How Environmental Factors Control This Process

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The main question that I will be exploring is whether bacterial isolates are capable of breaking down specific hydrocarbons and how environmental factors control this process. I first wanted to touch of the background of hydrocarbon degraders in general. They were only discovered about a century ago and not a lot of bacteria are classified as capable of breaking down hydrocarbons, only about 80 or so. Hydrocarbon degradation in the environment is typically limited by the bioavailability of nutrients, such as iron or phosphorous. The bioavailability of the hydrocarbons themselves is also an important limiting factor in biodegradation. Crude oil contains thousands of hydrocarbons all with different physical and chemical properties.
The
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Alcanivorax borkumensis is normally found in low abundances in the upper layers of the ocean but can become predominant in oil-contaminated open oceans and coastal waters.3 They have a profound ability to degrade and live predominately on alkanes. They are able to degrade alkanes up to C32, isoprenoid hydrocarbons and alkylcycloalkanes.3 This ability gives Alcanivorax a competitive advantage over other oil-degrading microbes.
The third, and final, bacteria that I will be using in my experiment are Cycloclasticus. Cycloclasticus is a genus of marine polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon degrading bacteria.1 These hydrocarbons include naphthalene and pyrene.1 These particular kinds of hydrocarbons are a major concern because they are hydrophobic and tend to clump to sediment and settle on the sea floor.1 These molecules are toxic and when they accumulate in high numbers this can disturb the growth of bottom feeders and other marine organisms.1 Uncultured Cycloclasticus were also important during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
I’m currently isolating strains from environmental samples. These cultures were isolated using different hydrocarbons (crude oil, hexadecane, benzene, and cyclohexane) and were grown at different temperatures to select for bacteria that grow well at low and high temperature
The first factor that I will be testing will be temperature. Different samples will be taken and grown under
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