Environmental microbiology reports

Conceptualizing functional traits and ecological characteristics of methane-oxidizing bacteria as life strategies.

PMID 23754714


Methane-oxidizing bacteria (MOB) possess the ability to use methane for energy generation and growth, thereby, providing a key ecosystem service that is highly relevant to the regulation of the global climate. MOB subgroups have different responses to key environmental controls, reflecting on their functional traits. Their unique features (C1-metabolism, unique lipids and congruence between the 16S rRNA and pmoA gene phylogeny) have facilitated numerous environmental studies, which in combination with the availability of cultured representatives, yield the most comprehensive ecological picture of any known microbial functional guild. Here, we focus on the broad MOB subgroups (type I and type II MOB), and aim to conceptualize MOB functional traits and observational characteristics derived primarily from these environmental studies to be interpreted as microbial life strategies. We focus on the functional traits, and the conditions under which these traits will render different MOB subgroups a selective advantage. We hypothesize that type I and type II MOB generally have distinct life strategies, enabling them to predominate under different conditions and maintain functionality. The ecological characteristics implicated in their adopted life strategies are discussed, and incorporated into the Competitor-Stress tolerator-Ruderal functional classification framework as put forward for plant communities. In this context, type I MOB can broadly be classified as competitor-ruderal while type II MOB fit more within the stress tolerator categories. Finally, we provide an outlook on MOB applications by exemplifying two approaches where their inferred life strategies could be exploited thereby, putting MOB into the context of microbial resource management.