Alterations of Endophytic Microbial Community Function in Spartina alterniflora as a Result of Crude Oil Exposure
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The 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster remains one of the largest oil spills in history. This event caused significant damage to coastal ecosystems, the full extent of which has yet to be fully determined. Crude oil contains both toxic substances that are detrimental to microbes and compounds that may be used as food and energy resources by some microbial species. As a result, oil spills have the potential to cause significant shifts in microbial communities. In this study, we assessed the impact of oil contamination on the function of endophytic microbial communities associated with saltmarsh cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora). Soil samples were collected from two locations in coastal Louisiana, USA: one severely affected by contamination from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and one relatively unaffected location. Spartina alterniflora seedlings were grown in both soil samples under greenhouse conditions, and GeoChip 5.0 was used to evaluate the endophytic microbial metatranscriptome shifts in response to host oil exposure. Microbial functional shifts were detected in functional categories related to metal homeostasis, organic remediation, and phosphorus utilization. These findings show that host oil exposure elicits multiple changes in metabolic response from their endophytic microbial communities, producing effects that may have the potential to impact host plant fitness.
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