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Fowler S.J.,University of Calgary | Dong X.,Visual Genomics Center | Sensen C.W.,Visual Genomics Center | Suflita J.M.,University of Oklahoma | Gieg L.M.,University of Calgary
Environmental Microbiology | Year: 2012

Toluene is a model compound used to study the anaerobic biotransformation of aromatic hydrocarbons. Reports indicate that toluene is transformed via fumarate addition to form benzylsuccinate or by unknown mechanisms to form hydroxylated intermediates under methanogenic conditions. We investigated the mechanism(s) of syntrophic toluene metabolism by a newly described methanogenic enrichment from a gas condensate-contaminated aquifer. Pyrosequencing of 16S rDNA revealed that the culture was comprised mainly of Clostridiales. The predominant methanogens affiliated with the Methanomicrobiales. Methane production from toluene ranged from 72% to 79% of that stoichiometrically predicted. Isotope studies using 13C 7 toluene showed that benzylsuccinate and benzoate transiently accumulated revealing that members of this consortium can catalyse fumarate addition and subsequent reactions. Detection of a BssA gene fragment in this culture further supported fumarate addition as a mechanism of toluene activation. Transient formation of cresols, benzylalcohol, hydroquinone and methylhydroquinone suggested alternative mechanism(s) for toluene metabolism. However, incubations of the consortium with 18O-H 2O showed that the hydroxyl group in these metabolites did not originate from water and abiotic control experiments revealed abiotic formation of hydroxylated species due to reactions of toluene with sulfide and oxygen. Our results suggest that toluene is activated by fumarate addition, presumably by the dominant Clostridiales. © 2011 Society for Applied Microbiology and Blackwell Publishing Ltd. Source


Tan B.,University of Alberta | Tan B.,Center for Environmental Sensing and Modeling | Jane Fowler S.,University of Calgary | Jane Fowler S.,Center for Environmental Sensing and Modeling | And 9 more authors.
ISME Journal | Year: 2015

Methanogenic hydrocarbon metabolism is a key process in subsurface oil reservoirs and hydrocarbon-contaminated environments and thus warrants greater understanding to improve current technologies for fossil fuel extraction and bioremediation. In this study, three hydrocarbon-degrading methanogenic cultures established from two geographically distinct environments and incubated with different hydrocarbon substrates (added as single hydrocarbons or as mixtures) were subjected to metagenomic and 16S rRNA gene pyrosequencing to test whether these differences affect the genetic potential and composition of the communities. Enrichment of different putative hydrocarbon-degrading bacteria in each culture appeared to be substrate dependent, though all cultures contained both acetate- and H 2 -utilizing methanogens. Despite differing hydrocarbon substrates and inoculum sources, all three cultures harbored genes for hydrocarbon activation by fumarate addition (bssA, assA, nmsA) and carboxylation (abcA, ancA), along with those for associated downstream pathways (bbs, bcr, bam), though the cultures incubated with hydrocarbon mixtures contained a broader diversity of fumarate addition genes. A comparative metagenomic analysis of the three cultures showed that they were functionally redundant despite their enrichment backgrounds, sharing multiple features associated with syntrophic hydrocarbon conversion to methane. In addition, a comparative analysis of the culture metagenomes with those of 41 environmental samples (containing varying proportions of methanogens) showed that the three cultures were functionally most similar to each other but distinct from other environments, including hydrocarbon-impacted environments (for example, oil sands tailings ponds and oil-affected marine sediments). This study provides a basis for understanding key functions and environmental selection in methanogenic hydrocarbon-associated communities. Source


Tan B.,University of Alberta | Dong X.,Visual Genomics Center | Sensen C.W.,Visual Genomics Center | Foght J.,University of Alberta
Genome | Year: 2013

A microbial community (short-chain alkane-degrading culture, SCADC) enriched from an oil sands tailings pond was shown to degrade C6-C10 alkanes under methanogenic conditions. Total genomic DNA from SCADC was subjected to 454 pyrosequencing, Illumina paired-end sequencing, and 16S rRNA amplicon pyrotag sequencing; the latter revealed 320 operational taxonomic units at 5% distance. Metagenomic sequences were subjected to in-house quality control and co-assembly, yielding 984 086 contigs, and annotation using MG-Rast and IMG. Substantial nucleotide and protein recruitment to Methanosaeta concilii, Syntrophus aciditrophicus, and Desulfobulbus propionicus reference genomes suggested the presence of closely related strains in SCADC; other genomes were not well mapped, reflecting the paucity of suitable reference sequences for such communities. Nonetheless, we detected numerous homologues of putative hydrocarbon succinate synthase genes (e.g., assA, bssA, and nmsA) implicated in anaerobic hydrocarbon degradation, suggesting the ability of the SCADC microbial community to initiate methanogenic alkane degradation by addition to fumarate. Annotation of a large contig revealed analogues of the ass operon 1 in the alkane-degrading sulphate-reducing bacterium Desulfatibacillum alkenivorans AK-01. Despite being enriched under methanogenic-fermentative conditions, additional metabolic functions inferred by COG profiling indicated multiple CO2 fixation pathways, organic acid utilization, hydrogenase activity, and sulphate reduction. © 2013 Published by NRC Research Press. Source

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