Hydrocarbon-degrading potential of microbial communities from Arctic plants



Lyle G. Whyte, Department of Natural Resource Sciences, McGill University, Macdonald Stewart Building, 21111 Lakeshore Road, Ste. Anne de Bellevue, Montreal, QC H9X 3V9, Canada. E-mail: lyle.whyte@mcgill.ca



To explore rhizospheric microbial communities from Arctic native plant species evaluating their bacterial hydrocarbon-degrading capacities.

Methods and Results

Eriophorum scheuchzeri, Potentilla cf. rubricaulis, Oxyria digyna, Salix arctica and Puccinellia angustata plant species were collected at Eureka (Canadian high Arctic) along with their rhizospheric soil samples. Their bacterial community fingerprints (16S rRNA gene, DGGE) were distinctive encompassing members from the phyla: Bacteroidetes, Firmicutes, Actinobacteria and Proteobacteria. Isolated diesel-degrading bacteria belonged to the phyla Actinobacteria and Proteobacteria. Strains of Mycobacterium, Nocardia, Rhodococcus, Intrasporangiaceae, Leifsoni and Arthrobacter possessed alkB and Pseudomonas possessed both ndoB and xylE gene sequences. Two Rhodococcus strains mineralized [1-14C] hexadecane at 5 and −5°C. From the rhizosphere of P. angustata, larger numbers of hydrocarbon-degrading bacteria were isolated than from other plant rhizosphere samples and all three genes alkB (from Actinobacteria), ndoB and xylE (from Pseudomonas) were detected by PCR.


(i) Arctic plants have unique rhizospheric bacterial communities. (ii) P. angustata has potential for phytoremediation research at high Arctic soils. (iii) Isolated bacteria mineralized hydrocarbons at ambient low temperatures.

Significance and Impact of the Study

To the best of our knowledge, this is the first rhizospheric exploration examining the phytoremediation potential of five Arctic plants and evaluating their microbial hydrocarbon-degrading capacities.