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Applied and environmental microbiology

Stable carbon isotope fractionation by methylotrophic methanogenic archaea.


PMID 22904062

Abstract

In natural environments methane is usually produced by aceticlastic and hydrogenotrophic methanogenic archaea. However, some methanogens can use C(1) compounds such as methanol as the substrate. To determine the contributions of individual substrates to methane production, the stable-isotope values of the substrates and the released methane are often used. Additional information can be obtained by using selective inhibitors (e.g., methyl fluoride, a selective inhibitor of acetoclastic methanogenesis). We studied stable carbon isotope fractionation during the conversion of methanol to methane in Methanosarcina acetivorans, Methanosarcina barkeri, and Methanolobus zinderi and generally found large fractionation factors (-83‰ to -72‰). We further tested whether methyl fluoride impairs methylotrophic methanogenesis. Our experiments showed that even though a slight inhibition occurred, the carbon isotope fractionation was not affected. Therefore, the production of isotopically light methane observed in the presence of methyl fluoride may be due to the strong fractionation by methylotrophic methanogens and not only by hydrogenotrophic methanogens as previously assumed.

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