High Pressure Cultivation of Hydrocarbonoclastic Aerobic Bacteria

  • Francesco Smedile
  • Violetta La Cono
  • Maria Genovese
  • Giovacchino Ruggeri
  • Renata Denaro
  • Francesca Crisafi
  • Laura Giuliano
  • Michail M. Yakimov
Part of the Springer Protocols Handbooks book series (SPH)


Hydrocarbon-degrading microorganisms capable to use hydrocarbons as a sole source of carbon and energy are widely distributed in marine environments (Yakimov et al., Curr Opin Biotechnol 18:257–266, 2007) occupying practically all habitats, including those characterized by extremely high hydrostatic pressure, i.e. deep-sea abysses and ocean bottoms. From April to July 2010, 779 million litres of oil were released into the Gulf of Mexico during the explosion of the drilling rig Deepwater Horizon (DWH) (Atlas and Hazen, Environ Sci Technol 45:6709–6715, 2011). This event, described as the largest marine oil spill in human history (Schedler et al., AMB Express 4:77, 2014), occurred at the depth of 1,500 m, corresponding to a hydrostatic pressure of 15 MPa. Substantial bacterial blooms were observed in the bathypelagic layer of the water column at the depth of approximately 1,000–1,200 m, indicating that indigenous hydrocarbon-degrading bacteria were enriched by the released crude oil and methane (Bælum et al., Environ Microbiol 14:2405–2416, 2012).

This dramatic event pointed to a very important issue that has been currently overlooked. Indeed, there are vanishingly few available publications related to studies on physiology and cultivation of hydrocarbon-degrading microorganisms under elevated hydrostatic pressure. Although pressure-induced differences in growth and hydrocarbon utilization were highlighted elsewhere (Schedler et al., AMB Express 4:77, 2014; Bælum et al., Environ Microbiol 14:2405–2416, 2012; Grossi et al., Environ Microbiol 12:2020–2033, 2010; Schwarz et al., Appl Microbiol 28:982–986, 1974; Schwarz et al., Can J Microbiol 21:682–687, 1975), comprehensive analyses of bacterial degradation of hydrocarbons conducted under high pressure are yet to be performed (Grossi et al., Environ Microbiol 12:2020–2033, 2010; Schwarz et al., Appl Microbiol 28:982–986, 1974; Schwarz et al., Can J Microbiol 21:682–687, 1975). Thus, the study of the fate of hydrocarbons once released in the ocean shows that the effect of pressure cannot be neglected. This chapter includes the main guidelines on how to incubate hydrocarbon-degrading bacteria under high hydrostatic pressure.


Biodegradation High pressure Hydrocarbons Pressure laboratory 



This work was supported by research fund from European Commission’s Program under MicroB3 Project (Contract FP7-OCEAN.2011-2-287589). This work was supported by research fund from European Commission’s Program under the research project Kill*Spill ‘Integrated Biotechnological Solutions for Combating Marine Oil Spills’ (FP7-KBBE-2012.3.5-01-4 Project 312139). We thank Dr Gina La Spada and Enzo Messina for their excellent technical support.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Francesco Smedile
    • 1
  • Violetta La Cono
    • 1
  • Maria Genovese
    • 1
  • Giovacchino Ruggeri
    • 1
  • Renata Denaro
    • 1
  • Francesca Crisafi
    • 1
  • Laura Giuliano
    • 1
  • Michail M. Yakimov
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute for Coastal Marine Environment, IAMC CNRMessinaItaly

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