Which Members of the Microbial Communities Are Active? Microarrays

  • Brandon E.L. Morris
Conference paper


Here, we introduce the concept of microarrays, discuss the advantages of several different types of arrays and present a case study that illustrates a targeted-profiling approach to bioremediation of a hydrocarbon-contaminated site in an Arctic environment. The majority of microorganisms in the terrestrial subsurface, particularly those involved in ‘heavy oil’ formation, reservoir souring or biofouling remain largely uncharacterised (Handelsman, 2004). There is evidence though that these processes are biologically catalysed, including stable isotopic composition of hydrocarbons in oil formations (Pallasser, 2000; Sun et al., 2005), the absence of biodegraded oil from reservoirs warmer than 80°C (Head et al., 2003) or negligible biofouling in the absence of biofilms (Dobretsov et al., 2009; Lewandowski and Beyenal, 2008), and all clearly suggest an important role for microorganisms in the deep biosphere in general and oilfield systems in particular. While the presence of sulphate-reducing bacteria in oilfields was first observed in the early twentieth century (Bastin, 1926), it was only through careful experiments with isolates from oil systems or contaminated environments that unequivocal evidence for hydrocarbon biodegradation under anaerobic conditions was provided (for a review, see Widdel et al., 2006). Work with pure cultures and microbial enrichments also led to the elucidation of the biochemistry of anaerobic aliphatic and aromatic hydrocarbon degradation and the identification of central metabolites and genes involved in the process, e.g. (Callaghan et al., 2008; Griebler et al., 2003; Kropp et al., 2000). This information could then be extrapolated to the environment to monitor degradation processes and determine if in situ microbial populations possessed the potential for contaminant bioremediation, e.g. Parisi et al. (2009). While other methods have also been developed to monitor natural attenuation of hydrocarbons (Meckenstock et al., 2004), we are only at the early stages of understanding the microbial processes that occur in petroliferous formations and the surrounding subterranean environment. Important first steps in characterising the microbiology of oilfield systems involve identifying the microbial community structure and determining how population diversity changes are affected by the overall geochemical and biological parameters of the system. This is relatively easy to do today by using general 16S rRNA primers for PCR and building clone libraries. For example, previous studies using molecular methods characterised many dominant prokaryotes in petroleum reservoirs (Orphan et al., 2000) and in two Alaskan North Slope oil facilities (Duncan et al., 2009; Pham et al., 2009). However, the problem is that more traditional molecular biology approaches, such as 16S clone libraries, fail to detect large portions of the community perhaps missing up to half of the biodiversity (see Hong et al., 2009) and require significant laboratory time to construct large libraries necessary to increase the probability of detecting the majority of even bacterial biodiversity. In the energy sector, the overarching desire would be to quickly assess the extent of in situ hydrocarbon biodegradation or to disrupt detrimental processes such as biofouling, and in these cases it may not be necessary to identify specific microbial species. Rather, it would be more critical to evaluate metabolic processes or monitor gene products that are implicated in the specific activity of interest. Research goals such as these are well suited for a tailored application of microarray technology.


Microbial Community Structure Hydrocarbon Degradation Microbiologically Influence Corrosion Hydrocarbon Biodegradation Nutrient Amendment 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Netherlands 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Botany and MicrobiologyInstitute for Energy and the Environment, University of OklahomaNormanUSA

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