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Methane metabolism in the archaeal phylum Bathyarchaeota revealed by genome-centric metagenomics

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Science  23 Oct 2015:
Vol. 350, Issue 6259, pp. 434-438
DOI: 10.1126/science.aac7745

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Methane cycling gets more diverse

The production and consumption of methane by microorganisms play a major role in the global carbon cycle. Although these processes can occur in a range of environments, from animal guts to the deep ocean, these metabolisms are confined to the Archaea. Evans et al. used metagenomics to assemble two nearly complete archaeal genomes from deep groundwater methanogens (see the Perspective by Lloyd). The two reconstructed genomes are members of the recently described Bathyarchaeota and not the phylum to which all previously known methane-metabolizing archaea belonged.

Science, this issue p. 434, see also p. 384

Abstract

Methanogenic and methanotrophic archaea play important roles in the global flux of methane. Culture-independent approaches are providing deeper insight into the diversity and evolution of methane-metabolizing microorganisms, but, until now, no compelling evidence has existed for methane metabolism in archaea outside the phylum Euryarchaeota. We performed metagenomic sequencing of a deep aquifer, recovering two near-complete genomes belonging to the archaeal phylum Bathyarchaeota (formerly known as the Miscellaneous Crenarchaeotal Group). These genomes contain divergent homologs of the genes necessary for methane metabolism, including those that encode the methyl–coenzyme M reductase (MCR) complex. Additional non-euryarchaeotal MCR-encoding genes identified in a range of environments suggest that unrecognized archaeal lineages may also contribute to global methane cycling. These findings indicate that methane metabolism arose before the last common ancestor of the Euryarchaeota and Bathyarchaeota.

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