PerspectiveBIOGEOCHEMISTRY

A new diet for methane oxidizers

Science  12 Feb 2016:
Vol. 351, Issue 6274, pp. 658
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaf0741

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Summary

In anoxic marine sediments, consortia of methane-consuming archaea and sulfate-reducing bacteria oxidize methane. Together, they thereby control methane discharge in a metabolism of global importance. During this cooperative interspecies interaction, known as syntrophy, the excess reducing equivalents released by one species feed the second species (see the first figure). The two species only gain energy when they work together. On page 703 of this issue, Scheller et al. (1) show that these partners can be decoupled in the laboratory. The results help to elucidate the molecular mechanisms that control methane discharge in marine systems.