Biogeographic and population analyses of Thermotogales bacteria from hydrocarbon-rich environments
About the project
We propose to obtain a minimum of 100 - 200 new Thermotogales strains mainly from hydrocarbon-rich environments, such as oil reservoirs, as well as from mesophilic polluted sediments. The isolates will be used in MLST and genomic analyses to investigate the population structure and biogeography of these bacteria; e.g. level of migration and genetic exchange within and between geographical sites. We will also explore how oil-reservoir-Thermotogales bacteria are adapted to this environment by obtaining genes specific for such strains through subtractive hybridization. The data generated here will give us information on how these bacteria can interact genetically over large geographic distances and how frequent such migrations between populations are, as well as help answer if Thermotogales populations in oil reservoirs are truly indigenous to oil fields or if they are introduced e.g. during reservoir development. By studying both thermophilic and mesophilic populations we will be able to assess how these different life styles affect population structure. Our findings will also further our understanding on what constitutes a prokaryotic species, one of the most contentious issues in microbiology. Finally, the data obtained here will have implications for biotechnology and oil industry. Microbes living in oil reservoirs can have both pernicious and beneficial effects on oil production. For instance, microbial biodegradation of oil has negative economic consequences. Microbial enhanced oil recovery, in contrast, has the potential to offer cost-effective solutions. Current production technologies can recover 1/3 - ½ of the oil in a reservoir; technologies that can help recover even parts of the remaining oil will have significant long-term impact. Thus, one long-term goal of this project is to help develop the basic science needed to understand the effects microbes have on oil reservoirs through studying bacteria thought to be indigenous to oil fields.
Funded by the Research Council of Norway
Start: 1.7.2008. End: 31.12.2014.