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Methane-utilizing bacteria (methanotrophs) are a diverse group of gram-negative bacteria that are related to other members of the Proteobacteria. These bacteria are classified into three groups based on the pathways used for assimilation of formaldehyde, the major source of cell carbon, and other physiological and morphological features. The type I and type X methanotrophs are found within the gamma subdivision of the Proteobacteria and employ the ribulose monophosphate pathway for formaldehyde assimilation, whereas type II methanotrophs, which employ the serine pathway for formaldehyde assimilation, form a coherent cluster within the beta subdivision of the Proteobacteria. Methanotrophic bacteria are ubiquitous. The growth of type II bacteria appears to be favored in environments that contain relatively high levels of methane, low levels of dissolved oxygen, and limiting concentrations of combined nitrogen and/or copper. Type I methanotrophs appear to be dominant in environments in which methane is limiting and combined nitrogen and copper levels are relatively high. These bacteria serve as biofilters for the oxidation of methane produced in anaerobic environments, and when oxygen is present in soils, atmospheric methane is oxidized. Their activities in nature are greatly influenced by agricultural practices and other human activities. Recent evidence indicates that naturally occurring, uncultured methanotrophs represent new genera. Methanotrophs that are capable of oxidizing methane at atmospheric levels exhibit methane oxidation kinetics different from those of methanotrophs available in pure cultures. A limited number of methanotrophs have the genetic capacity to synthesize a soluble methane monooxygenase which catalyzes the rapid oxidation of environmental pollutants including trichloroethylene.