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1.  Methanotrophic bacteria in oilsands tailings ponds of northern Alberta 
The ISME Journal  2012;7(5):908-921.
We investigated methanotrophic bacteria in slightly alkaline surface water (pH 7.4–8.7) of oilsands tailings ponds in Fort McMurray, Canada. These large lakes (up to 10 km2) contain water, silt, clay and residual hydrocarbons that are not recovered in oilsands mining. They are primarily anoxic and produce methane but have an aerobic surface layer. Aerobic methane oxidation was measured in the surface water at rates up to 152 nmol CH4 ml−1 water d−1. Microbial diversity was investigated via pyrotag sequencing of amplified 16S rRNA genes, as well as by analysis of methanotroph-specific pmoA genes using both pyrosequencing and microarray analysis. The predominantly detected methanotroph in surface waters at all sampling times was an uncultured species related to the gammaproteobacterial genus Methylocaldum, although a few other methanotrophs were also detected, including Methylomonas spp. Active species were identified via 13CH4 stable isotope probing (SIP) of DNA, combined with pyrotag sequencing and shotgun metagenomic sequencing of heavy 13C-DNA. The SIP-PCR results demonstrated that the Methylocaldum and Methylomonas spp. actively consumed methane in fresh tailings pond water. Metagenomic analysis of DNA from the heavy SIP fraction verified the PCR-based results and identified additional pmoA genes not detected via PCR. The metagenome indicated that the overall methylotrophic community possessed known pathways for formaldehyde oxidation, carbon fixation and detoxification of nitrogenous compounds but appeared to possess only particulate methane monooxygenase not soluble methane monooxygenase.
PMCID: PMC3635237  PMID: 23254511
oilsands; tailings pond; methane; methanotroph; Methylocaldum
2.  Detection of autotrophic verrucomicrobial methanotrophs in a geothermal environment using stable isotope probing 
Genomic analysis of the methanotrophic verrucomicrobium “Methylacidiphilum infernorum” strain V4 has shown that most pathways conferring its methanotrophic lifestyle are similar to those found in proteobacterial methanotrophs. However, due to the large sequence divergence of its methane monooxygenase-encoding genes (pmo), “universal” pmoA polymerase chain reaction (PCR) primers do not target these bacteria. Unlike proteobacterial methanotrophs, “Methylacidiphilum” fixes carbon autotrophically, and uses methane only for energy generation. As a result, techniques used to detect methanotrophs in the environment such as 13CH4-stable isotope probing (SIP) and pmoA-targeted PCR do not detect verrucomicrobial methanotrophs, and they may have been overlooked in previous environmental studies. We developed a modified SIP technique to identify active methanotrophic Verrucomicrobia in the environment by labeling with 13CO2 and 13CH4, individually and in combination. Testing the protocol in “M. infernorum” strain V4 resulted in assimilation of 13CO2 but not 13CH4, verifying its autotrophic lifestyle. To specifically detect methanotrophs (as opposed to other autotrophs) via 13CO2-SIP, a quantitative PCR (qPCR) assay specific for verrucomicrobial-pmoA genes was developed and used in combination with SIP. Incubation of an acidic, high-temperature geothermal soil with 13CH4 + 12CO2 caused little shift in the density distribution of verrucomicrobial-pmoA genes relative to controls. However, labeling with 13CO2 in combination with 12CH4 or 13CH4 induced a strong shift in the distribution of verrucomicrobial-pmoA genes towards the heavy DNA fractions. The modified SIP technique demonstrated that the primary methanotrophs active in the soil were autotrophs and belonged to the Verrucomicrobia. This is the first demonstration of autotrophic, non-proteobacterial methanotrophy in situ, and provides a tool to detect verrucomicrobial methanotrophs in other ecosystems.
PMCID: PMC3421453  PMID: 22912630
Verrucomicrobia; methane; methanotroph; stable isotope probing; “Methylacidiphilum”; acidophile
3.  Metagenomics of Hydrocarbon Resource Environments Indicates Aerobic Taxa and Genes to be Unexpectedly Common 
Environmental Science & Technology  2013;47(18):10708-10717.
Oil in subsurface reservoirs is biodegraded by resident microbial communities. Water-mediated, anaerobic conversion of hydrocarbons to methane and CO2, catalyzed by syntrophic bacteria and methanogenic archaea, is thought to be one of the dominant processes. We compared 160 microbial community compositions in ten hydrocarbon resource environments (HREs) and sequenced twelve metagenomes to characterize their metabolic potential. Although anaerobic communities were common, cores from oil sands and coal beds had unexpectedly high proportions of aerobic hydrocarbon-degrading bacteria. Likewise, most metagenomes had high proportions of genes for enzymes involved in aerobic hydrocarbon metabolism. Hence, although HREs may have been strictly anaerobic and typically methanogenic for much of their history, this may not hold today for coal beds and for the Alberta oil sands, one of the largest remaining oil reservoirs in the world. This finding may influence strategies to recover energy or chemicals from these HREs by in situ microbial processes.
PMCID: PMC3864245  PMID: 23889694
4.  Controls on bacterial and archaeal community structure and greenhouse gas production in natural, mined, and restored Canadian peatlands 
Northern peatlands are important global C reservoirs, largely because of their slow rates of microbial C mineralization. Particularly in sites that are heavily influenced by anthropogenic disturbances, there is scant information about microbial ecology and whether or not microbial community structure influences greenhouse gas production. This work characterized communities of bacteria and archaea using terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism (T-RFLP) and sequence analysis of 16S rRNA and functional genes across eight natural, mined, or restored peatlands in two locations in eastern Canada. Correlations were explored among chemical properties of peat, bacterial and archaeal community structure, and carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) production rates under oxic and anoxic conditions. Bacteria and archaea similar to those found in other peat soil environments were detected. In contrast to other reports, methanogen diversity was low in our study, with only 2 groups of known or suspected methanogens. Although mining and restoration affected substrate availability and microbial activity, these land-uses did not consistently affect bacterial or archaeal community composition. In fact, larger differences were observed between the two locations and between oxic and anoxic peat samples than between natural, mined, and restored sites, with anoxic samples characterized by less detectable bacterial diversity and stronger dominance by members of the phylum Acidobacteria. There were also no apparent strong linkages between prokaryote community structure and CH4 or CO2 production, suggesting that different organisms exhibit functional redundancy and/or that the same taxa function at very different rates when exposed to different peat substrates. In contrast to other earlier work focusing on fungal communities across similar mined and restored peatlands, bacterial and archaeal communities appeared to be more resistant or resilient to peat substrate changes brought about by these land uses.
PMCID: PMC3728569  PMID: 23914185
archaea; bacteria; carbon dioxide; decomposition; methane; methanogen
5.  Draft Genome Sequence of the Volcano-Inhabiting Thermoacidophilic Methanotroph Methylacidiphilum fumariolicum Strain SolV 
Journal of Bacteriology  2012;194(14):3729-3730.
The draft genome of Methylacidiphilum fumariolicum SolV, a thermoacidophilic methanotroph of the phylum Verrucomicrobia, is presented. Annotation revealed pathways for one-carbon, nitrogen, and hydrogen catabolism and respiration together with central metabolic pathways. The genome encodes three orthologues of particulate methane monooxygenases. Sequencing of this genome will help in the understanding of methane cycling in volcanic environments.
PMCID: PMC3393509  PMID: 22740660
6.  Complete Genome Sequence of Beijerinckia indica subsp. indica▿  
Journal of Bacteriology  2010;192(17):4532-4533.
Beijerinckia indica subsp. indica is an aerobic, acidophilic, exopolysaccharide-producing, N2-fixing soil bacterium. It is a generalist chemoorganotroph that is phylogenetically closely related to facultative and obligate methanotrophs of the genera Methylocella and Methylocapsa. Here we report the full genome sequence of this bacterium.
PMCID: PMC2937395  PMID: 20601475
7.  Complete Genome Sequence of the Aerobic Facultative Methanotroph Methylocella silvestris BL2▿  
Journal of Bacteriology  2010;192(14):3840-3841.
Methylocella silvestris BL2 is an aerobic methanotroph originally isolated from an acidic forest soil in Germany. It is the first fully authenticated facultative methanotroph. It grows not only on methane and other one-carbon (C1) substrates, but also on some compounds containing carbon-carbon bonds, such as acetate, pyruvate, propane, and succinate. Here we report the full genome sequence of this bacterium.
PMCID: PMC2897342  PMID: 20472789
8.  Encapsulated in silica: genome, proteome and physiology of the thermophilic bacterium Anoxybacillus flavithermus WK1 
Genome Biology  2008;9(11):R161.
Sequencing of the complete genome of Anoxybacillus flavithermus reveals enzymes that are required for silica adaptation and biofilm formation.
Gram-positive bacteria of the genus Anoxybacillus have been found in diverse thermophilic habitats, such as geothermal hot springs and manure, and in processed foods such as gelatin and milk powder. Anoxybacillus flavithermus is a facultatively anaerobic bacterium found in super-saturated silica solutions and in opaline silica sinter. The ability of A. flavithermus to grow in super-saturated silica solutions makes it an ideal subject to study the processes of sinter formation, which might be similar to the biomineralization processes that occurred at the dawn of life.
We report here the complete genome sequence of A. flavithermus strain WK1, isolated from the waste water drain at the Wairakei geothermal power station in New Zealand. It consists of a single chromosome of 2,846,746 base pairs and is predicted to encode 2,863 proteins. In silico genome analysis identified several enzymes that could be involved in silica adaptation and biofilm formation, and their predicted functions were experimentally validated in vitro. Proteomic analysis confirmed the regulation of biofilm-related proteins and crucial enzymes for the synthesis of long-chain polyamines as constituents of silica nanospheres.
Microbial fossils preserved in silica and silica sinters are excellent objects for studying ancient life, a new paleobiological frontier. An integrated analysis of the A. flavithermus genome and proteome provides the first glimpse of metabolic adaptation during silicification and sinter formation. Comparative genome analysis suggests an extensive gene loss in the Anoxybacillus/Geobacillus branch after its divergence from other bacilli.
PMCID: PMC2614493  PMID: 19014707
9.  Complete genome sequence of the extremely acidophilic methanotroph isolate V4, Methylacidiphilum infernorum, a representative of the bacterial phylum Verrucomicrobia 
Biology Direct  2008;3:26.
The phylum Verrucomicrobia is a widespread but poorly characterized bacterial clade. Although cultivation-independent approaches detect representatives of this phylum in a wide range of environments, including soils, seawater, hot springs and human gastrointestinal tract, only few have been isolated in pure culture. We have recently reported cultivation and initial characterization of an extremely acidophilic methanotrophic member of the Verrucomicrobia, strain V4, isolated from the Hell's Gate geothermal area in New Zealand. Similar organisms were independently isolated from geothermal systems in Italy and Russia.
We report the complete genome sequence of strain V4, the first one from a representative of the Verrucomicrobia. Isolate V4, initially named "Methylokorus infernorum" (and recently renamed Methylacidiphilum infernorum) is an autotrophic bacterium with a streamlined genome of ~2.3 Mbp that encodes simple signal transduction pathways and has a limited potential for regulation of gene expression. Central metabolism of M. infernorum was reconstructed almost completely and revealed highly interconnected pathways of autotrophic central metabolism and modifications of C1-utilization pathways compared to other known methylotrophs. The M. infernorum genome does not encode tubulin, which was previously discovered in bacteria of the genus Prosthecobacter, or close homologs of any other signature eukaryotic proteins. Phylogenetic analysis of ribosomal proteins and RNA polymerase subunits unequivocally supports grouping Planctomycetes, Verrucomicrobia and Chlamydiae into a single clade, the PVC superphylum, despite dramatically different gene content in members of these three groups. Comparative-genomic analysis suggests that evolution of the M. infernorum lineage involved extensive horizontal gene exchange with a variety of bacteria. The genome of M. infernorum shows apparent adaptations for existence under extremely acidic conditions including a major upward shift in the isoelectric points of proteins.
The results of genome analysis of M. infernorum support the monophyly of the PVC superphylum. M. infernorum possesses a streamlined genome but seems to have acquired numerous genes including those for enzymes of methylotrophic pathways via horizontal gene transfer, in particular, from Proteobacteria.
This article was reviewed by John A. Fuerst, Ludmila Chistoserdova, and Radhey S. Gupta.
PMCID: PMC2474590  PMID: 18593465
10.  Diversity of Methanotrophic Bacteria in Tropical Upland Soils under Different Land Uses 
Three upland soils from Thailand, a natural forest, a 16-year-old reforested site, and an agricultural field, were studied with regard to methane uptake and the community composition of methanotrophic bacteria (MB). The methane uptake rates were similar to rates described previously for forest and farmland soils of the temperate zone. The rates were lower at the agricultural site than at the native forest and reforested sites. The sites also differed in the MB community composition, which was characterized by denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) of pmoA gene fragments (coding for a subunit of particulate methane monooxygenase) that were PCR amplified from total soil DNA extracts. Cluster analysis based on the DGGE banding patterns indicated that the MB communities at the forested and reforested sites were similar to each other but different from that at the farmland site. Sequence analysis of excised DGGE bands indicated that Methylobacter spp. and Methylocystis spp. were present. Sequences of the “forest soil cluster” or “upland soil cluster α,” which is postulated to represent organisms involved in atmospheric methane consumption in diverse soils, were detected only in samples from the native forest and reforested sites. Additional sequences that may represent uncultivated groups of MB in the Gammaproteobacteria were also detected.
PMCID: PMC1169035  PMID: 16000794
11.  Methylocella Species Are Facultatively Methanotrophic 
Journal of Bacteriology  2005;187(13):4665-4670.
All aerobic methanotrophic bacteria described to date are unable to grow on substrates containing carbon-carbon bonds. Here we demonstrate that members of the recently discovered genus Methylocella are an exception to this. These bacteria are able to use as their sole energy source the one-carbon compounds methane and methanol, as well as the multicarbon compounds acetate, pyruvate, succinate, malate, and ethanol. To conclusively verify facultative growth, acetate and methane were used as model substrates in growth experiments with the type strain Methylocella silvestris BL2. Quantitative real-time PCR targeting the mmoX gene, which encodes a subunit of soluble methane monooxygenase, showed that copies of this gene increased in parallel with cell counts during growth on either acetate or methane as the sole substrate. This verified that cells possessing the genetic basis of methane oxidation grew on acetate as well as methane. Cloning of 16S rRNA genes and fluorescence in situ hybridization with strain-specific and genus-specific oligonucleotide probes detected no contaminants in cultures. The growth rate and carbon conversion efficiency were higher on acetate than on methane, and when both substrates were provided in excess, acetate was preferably used and methane oxidation was shut down. Our data demonstrate that not all methanotrophic bacteria are limited to growing on one-carbon compounds. This could have major implications for understanding the factors controlling methane fluxes in the environment.
PMCID: PMC1151763  PMID: 15968078
12.  Diversity and Activity of Methanotrophic Bacteria in Different Upland Soils 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2003;69(11):6703-6714.
Samples from diverse upland soils that oxidize atmospheric methane were characterized with regard to methane oxidation activity and the community composition of methanotrophic bacteria (MB). MB were identified on the basis of the detection and comparative sequence analysis of the pmoA gene, which encodes a subunit of particulate methane monooxygenase. MB commonly detected in soils were closely related to Methylocaldum spp., Methylosinus spp., Methylocystis spp., or the “forest sequence cluster” (USC α), which has previously been detected in upland soils and is related to pmoA sequences of type II MB (Alphaproteobacteria). As well, a novel group of sequences distantly related (<75% derived amino acid identity) to those of known type I MB (Gammaproteobacteria) was often detected. This novel “upland soil cluster γ” (USC γ) was significantly more likely to be detected in soils with pH values of greater than 6.0 than in more acidic soils. To identify active MB, four selected soils were incubated with 13CH4 at low mixing ratios (<50 ppm of volume), and extracted methylated phospholipid fatty acids (PLFAs) were analyzed by gas chromatography-online combustion isotope ratio mass spectrometry. Incorporation of 13C into PLFAs characteristic for methanotrophic Gammaproteobacteria was observed in all soils in which USC γ sequences were detected, suggesting that the bacteria possessing these sequences were active methanotrophs. A pattern of labeled PLFAs typical for methanotrophic Alphaproteobacteria was obtained for a sample in which only USC α sequences were detected. The data indicate that different MB are present and active in different soils that oxidize atmospheric methane.
PMCID: PMC262299  PMID: 14602631
13.  Wide Distribution of a Novel pmoA-Like Gene Copy among Type II Methanotrophs, and Its Expression in Methylocystis Strain SC2 
Experiments were conducted to determine if a novel pmoA-like gene (pmoA2) recently discovered in the methane-oxidizing bacterium Methylocystis strain SC2 (P. F. Dunfield, M. Tchawa Yimga, S. D. Dedysh, U. Berger, W. Liesack, and J. Heyer, FEMS Microbiol. Ecol. 41:17-26, 2002) is present in other methane-oxidizing bacteria (MOB), and if it is expressed. A newly developed primer combination (pmoA206f-pmoA703b) allowed a differential detection of pmoA1 and pmoA2. By using this primer combination, we identified pmoA2 in a wide range of type II MOB of the Methylosinus-Methylocystis group. However, screening by PCR and by Southern hybridization using a newly developed pmoA2-specific oligonucleotide probe also showed that closely related type II MOB, exhibiting 16S rRNA gene sequence identities of higher than 97%, may or may not harbor pmoA2. No pmoA2 was detected in five type I MOB tested: Methylococcus capsulatus strain Bath, Methylocaldum strain E10A, Methylobacter luteus, Methylomicrobium album, and Methylomonas strain D1a. In comparative sequence analyses, all pmoA2-like sequences formed a coherent cluster clearly distinct from pmoA1 sequences of type I and type II MOB, and from amoA sequences of the Nitrosomonas-Nitrosospira group. Phylogenetic analysis using the paml model suggested that pmoA2 is subject to strong purifying selection and therefore has an important cellular function. We probed total RNA extracts of Methylocystis strain SC2 for gene expression of pmoA. A strong signal was observed for pmoA1 in Northern hybridization, while the results obtained for pmoA2 were ambiguous. However, reverse transcription-PCR confirmed that pmoA2 was expressed, albeit at lower level than pmoA1. This provided experimental evidence that the gene product of pmoA2 may be a functionally active enzyme.
PMCID: PMC194948  PMID: 12957949
14.  Starvation Alters the Apparent Half-Saturation Constant for Methane in the Type II Methanotroph Methylocystis Strain LR1 
When cells of a type II methanotrophic bacterium (Methylocystis strain LR1) were starved of methane, both the Km(app) and the Vmax(app) for methane decreased. The specific affinity (aos) remained nearly constant. Therefore, the decreased Km(app) in starved cells was probably not an adjustment to better utilize low-methane concentrations.
PMCID: PMC92272  PMID: 10966442
15.  High-Affinity Methane Oxidation by a Soil Enrichment Culture Containing a Type II Methanotroph 
Methanotrophic bacteria in an organic soil were enriched on gaseous mixing ratios of <275 parts per million of volume (ppmv) of methane (CH4). After 4 years of growth and periodic dilution (>1020 times the initial soil inoculum), a mixed culture was obtained which displayed an apparent half-saturation constant [Km(app)] for CH4 of 56 to 186 nM (40 to 132 ppmv). This value was the same as that measured in the soil itself and about 1 order of magnitude lower than reported values for pure cultures of methane oxidizers. However, the Km(app) increased when the culture was transferred to higher mixing ratios of CH4 (1,000 ppmv, or 1%). Denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis of the enrichment grown on <275 ppmv of CH4 revealed a single gene product of pmoA, which codes for a subunit of particulate methane monooxygenase. This suggested that only one methanotroph species was present. This organism was isolated from a sample of the enrichment culture grown on 1% CH4 and phylogenetically positioned based on its 16S rRNA, pmoA, and mxaF gene sequences as a type II strain of the Methylocystis/Methylosinus group. A coculture of this strain with a Variovorax sp., when grown on <275 ppmv of CH4, had a Km(app) (129 to 188 nM) similar to that of the initial enrichment culture. The data suggest that the affinity of methanotrophic bacteria for CH4 varies with growth conditions and that the oxidation of atmospheric CH4 observed in this soil is carried out by type II methanotrophic bacteria which are similar to characterized species.
PMCID: PMC91137  PMID: 10049856

Results 1-15 (15)