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

BER Research Highlights

Mechanism of Microbial Oxidation of Methane
Published: May 10, 2010
Posted: May 26, 2010

Industrial processes to convert methane to other fuel molecules and chemical feedstocks are inefficient, requiring substantial energy inputs. In contrast, methantrophic bacteria efficiently convert methane to methanol, which can then be converted to other fuels and chemicals. This methane to methanol conversion is catalyzed by methane mono-oxygenase (MMO) enzymes. A team led by Timothy Stemmler of Wayne State University and Amy Rosenzweig of Northwestern University used an x-ray spectroscopy station at the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource to demonstrate that the active site of MMOs in the methanotroph Methylococcus capsulatus contains two copper atoms. They also showed that the active site is in a soluble domain of the enzyme not the membrane bound component. This resolves long-standing uncertainties about whether the active site contains an iron or a copper atom, and how many metal atoms are in the active site. These results will enable the design of enzyme-based systems for large-scale conversion of methane to other molecules.

Reference: R. Balasubramanian, et al., "Oxidation of methane by a biological dicopper centre", Nature, 465, 115-119 (2010).

Contact: Roland F. Hirsch, SC-23.2, (301) 903-9009
Topic Areas:

  • Research Area: Microbes and Communities
  • Research Area: Sustainable Biofuels and Bioproducts
  • Research Area: Structural Biology, Biomolecular Characterization and Imaging
  • Research Area: Structural Biology Infrastructure
  • Research Area: Research Technologies and Methodologies

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)