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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2003 Jun;69(6):3311-6.

Isolation of a methanogen from deep marine sediments that contain methane hydrates, and description of Methanoculleus submarinus sp. nov.

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  • 1Biology Department, Portland State University, Portland, Oregon 97207-0751, USA.


We isolated a methanogen from deep in the sediments of the Nankai Trough off the eastern coast of Japan. At the sampling site, the water was 950 m deep and the sediment core was collected at 247 m below the sediment surface. The isolated methanogen was named Nankai-1. Cells of Nankai-1 were nonmotile and highly irregular coccoids (average diameter, 0.8 to 2 micro m) and grew with hydrogen or formate as a catabolic substrate. Cells required acetate as a carbon source. Yeast extract and peptones were not required but increased the growth rate. The cells were mesophilic, growing most rapidly at 45 degrees C (no growth at </=10 degrees C or >/=55 degrees C). Cells grew with a maximum specific growth rate of 2.43 day(-1) at 45 degrees C. Cells grew at pH values between 5.0 and 8.7 but did not grow at pH 4.7 or 9.0. Strain Nankai-1 grew in a wide range of salinities, from 0.1 to 1.5 M Na(+). The described phenotypic characteristics of this novel isolate were consistent with the in situ environment of the Nankai Trough. This is the first report of a methanogenic isolate from methane hydrate-bearing sediments. Phylogenetic analysis of its 16S rRNA gene sequence indicated that it is most closely related to Methanoculleus marisnigri (99.1% sequence similarity), but DNA hybridization experiments indicated a DNA sequence similarity of only 49%. Strain Nankai-1 was also found to be phenotypically similar to M. marisnigri, but two major phenotypic differences were found: strain Nankai-1 does not require peptones, and it grows fastest at a much higher temperature. We propose a new species, Methanoculleus submarinus, with strain Nankai-1 as the type strain.

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