Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Scientists explore genome of methane-breathing microbe

21.09.2004


First complete DNA sequence of methanotroph reveals metabolic flexibility, suggests mechanisms for increasing its usefulness for biotechnology



The first complete genome sequence of a methane-breathing bacterium has revealed a surprising flexibility in its metabolism, suggesting an ability to live successfully in environments previously thought to be beyond its reach. The genome sequence of Methylococcus capsulatus – a species typical of methane-breathing bacteria commonly found in soils, landfills, sediments and peat bogs – includes a full and at times redundant toolkit of genes for using methane as an energy and carbon source. Such methane-consuming microbes are called methanotrophs.

The study, to be published in the October issue of PLoS Biology and posted online this week, found an unexpected flexibility in M. capsulatus metabolic pathways, hinting that the bacterium is capable of responding to changes in its environment by functioning through different chemical pathways for using methane. That finding, if confirmed by later experiments, may increase the bacterium’s potential as a biotech workhorse.


Methanotrophs play an important role in the global energy cycle because they consume methane, a gas that is produced mostly by chemical processes in landfills, in the guts of ruminant livestock such as cows, and by oil and natural gas processing plants.

In recent years, environmental scientists have shown increasing interest in methanotrophs because their use of methane as a sole source of carbon and energy could possibly be harnessed to play an important role in efforts to reduce methane emissions that are generated by biological sources such as ruminants and landfills.

The PLoS Biology study found that M. capsulatus has multiple pathways for different stages in the oxidation of methane. They also found genes that suggest metabolic flexibility, including the microbe’s likely ability to grow on sugars, to oxidize sulfur, and to live in reduced-oxygen environments. "We now have a much better picture of the relationship between M. capsulatus and its environment," says Naomi Ward, the paper’s first author. "It is important for us to know under what conditions methane can be removed from the ecosystem before it accumulates as a greenhouse gas."

Ward is an Assistant Investigator at The Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR), which led the genomic sequencing and conducted the analysis with scientific collaborators at the University of Bergen in Norway. While noting that "there is a clear need for experimental validation" of the metabolic pathways suggested by the genome, the study’s authors suggest that their analysis "deepens our understanding of methanotroph biology, its relationship to global carbon cycles, and its potential for biotechnological applications."

Johan Lillehaug, the Norwegian scientist who oversaw the University of Bergen’s role in the project, says the genome analysis found that M. capsulatus has a novel strategy for scavenging copper, an essential element for regulating methane oxidation. "We found that M. capsulatus is a good model for studying how microbes adapt to varying copper concentrations," he says, noting that M. capsulatus uses two separate systems – at high and low copper concentrations – for oxidizing methane.

Scientists say the organism’s potential significance for biotechnology include the use of bacteriophage (viruses that infect bacteria) that have made a home in the genome. Such phages could be exploited to genetically manipulate M. capsulatus to more efficiently produce microbial protein for commercial animal feed.

The study’s senior author, TIGR Investigator Jonathan Eisen, says the analysis of M. capsulatus also will help scientists learn more about some methane-fixing bacteria – those that live inside of animals such as clams and mussels in deep-sea methane seeps – that are extremely difficult to study. Such methane-fixing bacterial symbionts allow their host animals to feed off of the methane collected in seeps.

"The methane-fixing symbionts are very important ecologically but we know little about how they work since they live inside of animals and cannot be grown in pure cultures on their own,"says Eisen. "Since the symbionts are closely related evolutionarily and biologically to Methylococcus capsulatus, we can now use the information gleaned from this genome sequence to make predictions about the symbionts."

Robert Koenig | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.tigr.org

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Fingerprint' technique spots frog populations at risk from pollution
27.03.2017 | Lancaster University

nachricht Parallel computation provides deeper insight into brain function
27.03.2017 | Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) Graduate University

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

Im Focus: Researchers Imitate Molecular Crowding in Cells

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Northern oceans pumped CO2 into the atmosphere

27.03.2017 | Earth Sciences

Fingerprint' technique spots frog populations at risk from pollution

27.03.2017 | Life Sciences

Big data approach to predict protein structure

27.03.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>