Document Type



Virginia Institute of Marine Science

Publication Date



Scientific Reports






The 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil-spill exposed the microbes of Gulf of Mexico to unprecedented amount of oil. Conclusive evidence of the underlying molecular mechanism(s) on the negative effects of oil exposure on certain phytoplankton species such as Thalassiosira pseudonana is still lacking, curtailing our understanding of how oil spills alter community composition. We performed experiments on model diatom T. pseudonana to understand the mechanisms underpinning observed reduced growth and photosynthesis rates during oil exposure. Results show severe impairment to processes upstream of photosynthesis, such as light absorption, with proteins associated with the light harvesting complex damaged while the pigments were unaffected. Proteins associated with photosynthetic electron transport were also damaged, severely affecting photosynthetic apparatus and depriving cells of energy and carbon for growth. Negative growth effects were alleviated when an organic carbon source was provided. Further investigation through proteomics combined with pathway enrichment analysis confirmed the above findings, while highlighting other negatively affected processes such as those associated with ferroxidase complex, high-affinity iron-permease complex, and multiple transmembrane transport. We also show that oxidative stress is not the primary route of negative effects, rather secondary. Overall, this study provides a mechanistic understanding of the cellular damage that occurs during oil exposure to T. pseudonana.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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