Characterization of Bacterial Hydrocarbon Degradation Potential in the Red Sea Through Metagenomic and Cultivation Methods
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AbstractProkaryotes are the main actors in biogeochemical cycles that are fundamental in global nutrient cycling. The characterization of microbial communities and isolates can enhance the comprehension of such cycles. Potentially novel biochemical processes can be discovered in particular environments with unique characteristics. The Red Sea can be considered as a unique natural laboratory due to its peculiar hydrology and physical features including temperature, salinity and water circulation. Moreover the Red Sea is subjected to hydrocarbon pollution by both anthropogenic and natural sources that select hydrocarbon degrading prokaryotes. Due to its unique features the Red Sea has the potential to host uncharacterized novel microorganisms with hydrocarbondegrading pathways. The focus of this thesis is on the characterization at the metagenomic level of the water column of the Red Sea and on the isolation and characterization of novel hydrocarbon-degrading species and genomes adapted to the unique environmental characteristics of the basin. The presence of metabolic genes responsible of both linear and aromatic hydrocarbon degradation has been evaluated from a metagenomic survey and a meta-analysis of already available datasets. In parallel, water column-based microcosms have been established with crude oil as the sole carbon source, with aim to isolate potential novel bacterial species and provide new genome-based insights on the hydrocarbon degradation potential available in the Red Sea.