This study investigated the abundance and diversity of soil n-alkane and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH)-degrading bacterial communities. It also investigated the quantity of the functional genes, the occurrence of horizontal gene transfer (HGT) in the identified bacterial communities and the effect that such HGT can have on biostimulation process. Illumina sequencing was used to detect the microbial diversity of petroleum-polluted soil prior to the biostimulation process, and quantitative real-time PCR was used to determine changes in the bacterial community and functional genes (alkB, phnAc and nah) expressions throughout the biostimulation of petroleum-contaminated soil. The illumine results revealed that gamma-proteobacteria, Chloroflexi, Firmicutes, and delta-proteobacteria were the most dominant bacterial phyla in the contaminated site, and that most of the strains were Gram-negative. The results of the gene expression results revealed that gram-negative bacteria and alkB are critical to successful bioremediation. Failure to maintain the stability of hydrocarbon -degrading bacteria and functional gene will reduce the extend to which alkanes and PAHs are degraded. According to the results of the study, the application of a C:N:P ratio of was 100:15:1 in the biodegradation experiment resulted in the highest rate at which petroleum hydrocarbons were biodegraded. The diversity of pollutant -degrading bacteria and the effective transfer of degrading genes among resident microorganisms are essential factors for the successful biostimulation of petroleum hydrocarbons. As such, screening these factors throughout the biostimulation process represents an effective monitoring approach by which the success of the biostimulation can be assessed. (C) 2015 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.