Archaea, 1
© 2004 Heron Publishing—Victoria, Canada
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Trace methane oxidation studied in several Euryarchaeota under diverse conditions

James J. Moran (1), Christopher H. House (1,2), Katherine H. Freeman (1) and James G. Ferry (3)

1. Department of Geosciences and Penn State Astrobiology Research Center, Penn State University, 220 Deike Bldg., University Park, PA 16802, USA / 2. Corresponding author ([email protected]) / 3. Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and Penn State Astrobiology Research Center, Penn State University, 205 South Frear, University Park, PA 16802, USA / Received June 16, 2004; accepted November 16, 2004; published online December 6, 2004


We used 13C-labeled methane to document the extent of trace methane oxidation by Archaeoglobus fulgidus, Archaeoglobus lithotrophicus, Archaeoglobus profundus, Methanobacterium thermoautotrophicum, Methanosarcina barkeri and Methanosarcina acetivorans. The results indicate trace methane oxidation during growth varied among different species and among methanogen cultures grown on different substrates. The extent of trace methane oxidation by Mb. thermoautotrophicum (0.05 ± 0.04%, ± 2 standard deviations of the methane produced during growth) was less than that by M. barkeri (0.15 ± 0.04%), grown under similar conditions with H2 and CO2. Methanosarcina acetivorans oxidized more methane during growth on trimethylamine (0.36 ± 0.05%) than during growth on methanol (0.07 ± 0.03%). This may indicate that, in M. acetivorans, either a methyltransferase related to growth on trimethylamine plays a role in methane oxidation, or that methanol is an intermediate of methane oxidation. Addition of possible electron acceptors (O2, NO3, SO42–, SO32–) or H2 to the headspace did not substantially enhance or diminish methane oxidation in M. acetivorans cultures. Separate growth experiments with FAD and NAD+ showed that inclusion of these electron carriers also did not enhance methane oxidation. Our results suggest trace methane oxidized during methanogenesis cannot be coupled to the reduction of these electron acceptors in pure cultures, and that the mechanism by which methane is oxidized in methanogens is independent of H2 concentration. In contrast to the methanogens, species of the sulfate-reducing genus Archaeoglobus did not significantly oxidize methane during growth (oxidizing 0.003 ± 0.01% of the methane provided to A. fulgidus, 0.002 ± 0.009% to A. lithotrophicus and 0.003 ± 0.02% to A. profundus). Lack of observable methane oxidation in the three Archaeoglobus species examined may indicate that methyl-coenzyme M reductase, which is not present in this genus, is required for the anaerobic oxidation of methane, consistent with the “reverse methanogenesis” hypothesis.

Keywords: anaerobic methane oxidation, Archaeoglobus, methanogen, reverse methanogenesis, stable isotope label.