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Volume 1 (2005), Issue 5, Pages 303-309
Research Article

Trace methane oxidation studied in several Euryarchaeota under diverse conditions

1Department of Geosciences and Penn State Astrobiology Research Center, Penn State University, 220 Deike Bldg., University Park, PA 16802, USA
2Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and Penn State Astrobiology Research Center, Penn State University, 205 South Frear, University Park, PA 16802, USA

Received 16 June 2004; Accepted 16 November 2004

Copyright © 2005 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


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, SO22–, 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.