U.S. Department of Energy Office of Biological and Environmental Research

BER Research Highlights


New Metabolic Pathway Discovered in Methane-Consuming Bacteria
Published: December 03, 2013
Posted: February 04, 2014

Methane is an essential component of the global carbon cycle and one of the most powerful greenhouse gases. Major uncertainties remain as to how global climate change will impact the release of carbon stored in ecosystems, particularly in terms of the balance between CO2 and methane entering the atmosphere. Recent technological advances in natural gas extraction from the deep subsurface also have vastly increased the supply of methane for energy production and potentially as an alternate carbon source for synthesis of fuels and other value-added chemicals. These developments have focused increased attention on biological processes that involve methane. For example, aerobic methane-consuming bacteria (methanotrophs) perform key ecosystem processes that affect methane release and represent a potential biological platform for methane-based industrial biocatalysis. In a new study, U.S. Department of Energy investigators at the University of Washington used a multifaceted systems biology approach to examine methane utilization by the methanotrophic bacterium Methylomicrobium alcaliphilum. Their results reveal a previously unknown metabolic pathway in which methane uptake is tightly coupled with glycolytic carbon metabolism, resulting in a novel form of fermentation-based methanotrophy. Under oxygen-limited conditions, this pathway produces acetate and other organic compounds as endproducts rather than CO2, which had been thought to be the sole product of methanotrophic metabolism. This discovery significantly alters our understanding of the role of methanotrophs in environmental carbon cycle processes and presents new opportunities for metabolic engineering of these organisms as platforms for biological conversion of methane to advanced biofuels and other products.

Reference: Kalyuzhnaya, M. G., S. Yang, O. N. Rozova, N. E. Smalley, J. Clubb, A. Lamb, G. A. Nagana Gowda, D. Raftery, Y. Fu, F. Bringel, S. Vuilleumier, D. A. C. Beck, Y. A. Trotsenko, V. N. Khmelenina,  and M. E. Lidstrom. 2013. “Highly Efficient Methane Biocatalysis Revealed in a Methanotrophic Bacterium,” Nature Communications 4, 2785. DOI: 10.1038/ncomms3785. (Reference link)

Contact: Joseph Graber, SC-23.2, (301) 903-1239
Topic Areas:

  • Research Area: Carbon Cycle, Nutrient Cycling
  • Research Area: Genomic Analysis and Systems Biology
  • Research Area: Microbes and Communities
  • Research Area: Sustainable Biofuels and Bioproducts

Division: SC-23.2 Biological Systems Science Division, BER

 

BER supports basic research and scientific user facilities to advance DOE missions in energy and environment. More about BER

Recent Highlights

May 10, 2019
Quantifying Decision Uncertainty in Water Management via a Coupled Agent-Based Model
Considering risk perception can improve the representation of human decision-making processes in age [more...]

May 09, 2019
Projecting Global Urban Area Growth Through 2100 Based on Historical Time Series Data and Future Scenarios
Study provides country-specific urban area growth models and the first dataset on country-level urba [more...]

May 05, 2019
Calibrating Building Energy Demand Models to Refine Long-Term Energy Planning
A new, flexible calibration approach improved model accuracy in capturing year-to-year changes in bu [more...]

May 03, 2019
Calibration and Uncertainty Analysis of Demeter for Better Downscaling of Global Land Use and Land Cover Projections
Researchers improved the Demeter model’s performance by calibrating key parameters and establi [more...]

Apr 22, 2019
Representation of U.S. Warm Temperature Extremes in Global Climate Model Ensembles
Representation of warm temperature events varies considerably among global climate models, which has [more...]

List all highlights (possible long download time)