The Methane-Oxidizing Bacteria (Methanotrophs)

Reference work entry
Part of the Handbook of Hydrocarbon and Lipid Microbiology book series (HHLM)


Aerobic methane-oxidizing bacteria (methanotrophs) have the unique ability to grow on methane as their sole source of carbon and energy. They are ubiquitous in the environment and play a major role in the removal of the greenhouse gas methane from the biosphere before it is released into the atmosphere. The ability to drive oxygen-dependent methane oxidation was once assumed to be an exceptional property of a very restricted set of microbes belonging to two classes of Proteobacteria: Alphaproteobacteria and Gammaproteobacteria. While Proteobacteria still form the foundation of the methanotrophic landscape in many ecosystems, the ability to oxidize methane has also been demonstrated in the microbial phyla Verrucomicrobia and Candidatus Methylomirabilis oxyfera (phylum NC10). Over the years various methanotrophs have also been isolated, including facultative methanotrophs, extremophile species, and anaerobes, thus expanding both the taxonomic diversity and physiological range of methanotrophy. In addition, a number of cross-species interactions that enable efficient methane utilization have been identified, changing the way we view mechanisms of methane utilization. Finally, a thorough revision of core metabolic pathways has been made, and whole-genome metabolic models have been constructed, which facilitate the metabolic engineering of methanotrophic bacteria and expand the potential for their biotechnological applications.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Biology DepartmentSan Diego State UniversitySan DiegoUSA
  2. 2.Viral Information InstituteSan Diego State UniversitySan DiegoUSA
  3. 3.School of Environmental SciencesUniversity of East AngliaNorwichUK

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