Determining the metabolic footprints of hydrocarbon degradation using multivariate analysis
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The functional dynamics of microbial communities are largely responsible for the clean-up of hydrocarbons in the environment. However, knowledge of the distinguishing functional genes, known as the metabolic footprint, present in hydrocarbon-impacted sites is still scarcely understood. Here, we conducted several multivariate analyses to characterise the metabolic footprints present in a variety of hydrocarbon-impacted and non-impacted sediments. Non-metric multi-dimensional scaling (NMDS) and canonical analysis of principal coordinates (CAP) showed a clear distinction between the two groups. A high relative abundance of genes associated with cofactors, virulence, phages and fatty acids were present in the non-impacted sediments, accounting for 45.7 % of the overall dissimilarity. In the hydrocarbon-impacted sites, a high relative abundance of genes associated with iron acquisition and metabolism, dormancy and sporulation, motility, metabolism of aromatic compounds and cell signalling were observed, accounting for 22.3 % of the overall dissimilarity. These results suggest a major shift in functionality has occurred with pathways essential to the degradation of hydrocarbons becoming overrepresented at the expense of other, less essential metabolisms.