Structural basis for methylphosphonate biosynthesis

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Science  08 Dec 2017:
Vol. 358, Issue 6368, pp. 1336-1339
DOI: 10.1126/science.aao3435

A source of methane in the upper ocean

Methane concentrations are high in oxygenated surface waters. Methylphosphonate (MPn) is a suggested source, but an enzyme that synthesizes Mpn (MPnS) has so far only been identified in one ocean microbe, albeit an abundant one: the archaeon Nitrosopumilus maritimus. Born et al. describe the crystal structure of MPnS and of a related enzyme that acts on the same substrate but makes a different product. By comparing the structures, they determined sequence markers that allowed them to identify MPnS in other ocean microbes, including the abundant microbe Pelagibacter ubique. These findings support the proposal that MPn is a source of both methane and phosphorus in the upper aerobic ocean.

Science, this issue p. 1336