Niche-specificity factors of a marine oil-degrading bacterium Alcanivorax borkumensis SK2


  • Editor: Aharon Oren

Correspondence: Julia S. Sabirova, Environmental Microbiology Laboratory, Helmholtz Center for Infection Research, Inhoffenstrasse 7, D-38124 Braunschweig, Germany. Tel.: +0049 531 6181 4000; fax: +0049 531 6181 4199; e-mail:


Alcanivorax borkumensis strain SK2 is a cosmopolitan hydrocarbonoclastic marine bacterium, with a specialized metabolism adapted to the degradation of petroleum oil hydrocarbons. Transposon mutagenesis was used for functional genome analysis of Alcanivorax SK2 to reveal the genetic basis of other environmentally relevant phenotypes, such as biofilm formation, adaptation to UV exposure, and to growth at either low temperature or high salinity. Forty-eight relevant transposon mutants deficient in any one of these environmentally responsive functions were isolated, and the corresponding genes interrupted by the mini-Tn5 element were sequenced using inverse PCR. Several cross connections between different phenotypes (e.g. biofilm and UV stress; biofilm and UV and osmoadaptation) on signal transduction level have been revealed, pointing at complex and tightly controlled cellular interactions involving oxygen as a primary messenger and cyclic-di-GMP as a secondary messenger required for Alcanivorax responses to environmental stresses. These results provide insights into bacterial function in a complex marine environment.