Origins of Life and Evolution of Biospheres

, Volume 48, Issue 4, pp 407–420 | Cite as

Methanogenesis on Early Stages of Life: Ancient but Not Primordial

  • Israel Muñoz-Velasco
  • Carlos García-Ferris
  • Ricardo Hernandez-Morales
  • Antonio Lazcano
  • Juli Peretó
  • Arturo BecerraEmail author
Early Evolution


Of the six known autotrophic pathways, the Wood-Ljungdahl pathway (WL) is the only one present in both the acetate producing Bacteria (homoacetogens) and the methane producing Archaea (hydrogenotrophic methanogens), and it has been suggested that WL is one of the oldest metabolic pathways. However, only the so-called carbonyl branch is shared by Archaea and Bacteria, while the methyl branch is different, both in the number of reactions and enzymes, which are not homologous among them. In this work we show that some parts of the methyl branch of archaeal Wood-Ljungdahl pathway (MBWL) are present in bacteria as well as in non-methanogen archaea, although the tangled evolutionary history of MBWL cannot be traced back to the Last Common Ancestor. We have also analyzed the different variants of methanogenesis (hydrogenotrophic, acetoclastic and methylotrophic pathways), and concluded that each of these pathways, and every different enzyme or subunit (in the case of multimeric enzymes), has their own intricate evolutionary history. Our study supports the scenario of hydrogenotrophic methanogenesis being older than the other variants, albeit not old enough to be present in the last archaeal common ancestor.


Methanogenesis Wood-Ljungdahl pathway Archaea Last common ancestor (LCA) Methanogenic coenzymes 



We are indebted to Dr. José Alberto Campillo-Balderas for his help with the manuscript. Financial support of DGAPA-UNAM (PAPIIT-IN223916) is gratefully acknowledged. IM-V is a student from the Posgrado en Ciencias Biológicas, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) and received fellowship 415961 from CONACyT. CGF and JP acknowledge financial support from Mineco/FEDER (grant references: BFU2015-64322-C2-1-R and BIO2015-66960-C3-1-R) and the Generalitat Valenciana (grant reference: PROMETEOII/2014/065).

Author’s Contribution

Authors contributed equally to this manuscript.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

11084_2018_9570_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (28 mb)
ESM 1 (PDF 28676 kb)
11084_2018_9570_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (49 kb)
ESM 2 (PDF 48.7 kb)


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Facultad de CienciasUniversidad Nacional Autónoma de MéxicoCiudad de MéxicoMexico
  2. 2.Posgrado en Ciencias BiológicasUnidad de PosgradoCiudad de MéxicoMexico
  3. 3.Departament de Bioquímica i Biologia MolecularUniversitat de ValènciaValènciaSpain
  4. 4.Institute for Integrative Systems Biology(I2SysBio, Universitat de València-CSIC)ValènciaSpain
  5. 5.Miembro de El Colegio Nacional, El Colegio NacionalCiudad de MéxicoMexico

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