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Groundbreaking Discovery: Methanogenic Hydrocarbon Degradation by a New Archaeon

Source: Biogas Institute of Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs

On December 22nd, 2021, Nature published online the latest research results of the Bioenergy Microbiome Team of Biogas Institute of Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs. In collaboration with other research teams, the team discovered a new type of methanogenic archaeon and confirmed that it can directly oxidize long-chain alkanes to produce methane, breaking through the traditional recognition that methanogenic archaeon can only use simple compounds to grow.


Methanogenic archaea are the earliest class of prokaryotic microorganisms that originated life on the earth, and they are the major contributors to global atmospheric methane emissions and key functional microorganisms for methane production from organic matter degradation under anaerobic environment (commonly known as biogas fermentation). Past views suggested that this biogas fermentation process require the syntrophic partnerships of bacteria and archaea for the degradation of complex organic matter and methane production.


Through culture-independent studies, this research confirmed that the archaeon ‘Candidatus Methanoliparum’ alone can directly oxidize long-chain alkanes to generate methane via β-oxidation and Wood-Ljungdahl without syntrophic partnerships. This research improves the biogeochemical processes of the carbon cycle and provides a new pathway for developing green and sustainable low-carbon technologies. It was supported by National Natural Science Foundation of China, Agricultural Science and Technology Innovation Project of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, and Central Public-Interest Scientific Institution Basal Research Fund.


Link of the article: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-021-04235-2




By Cheng Jingsi (chengjingsi@caas.cn)