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J Biosci Bioeng. 2002;93(6):519-30.

Structure and function of enzymes involved in the methanogenic pathway utilizing carbon dioxide and molecular hydrogen.

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Max-Planck-Institut für terrestrische Mikrobiologie and Laboratorium für Mikrobiologie, Fachbereich Biologie, Philipps-Universität Karl-von-Frisch Strasse, D-35043 Marburg, Germany.


Methane is an end product of anaerobic degradation of organic compounds in fresh water environments such as lake sediments and the intestinal tract of animals. Methanogenic archaea produce methane from carbon dioxide and molecular hydrogen, acetate and C1 compounds such as methanol in an energy gaining process. The methanogenic pathway utilizing carbon dioxide and molecular hydrogen involves ten methanogen specific enzymes, which catalyze unique reactions using novel coenzymes. These enzymes have been purified and biochemically characterized. The genes encoding the enzymes have been cloned and sequenced. Recently, crystal structures of five methanogenic enzymes: formylmethanofuran : tetrahydromethanopterin formyltransferase, methenyltetrahydromethanopterin cyclohydrolase, methylenetetrahydromethanopterin reductase, F420H2:NADP oxidoreductase and methyl-coenzyme M reductase were reported. In this review, we describe the pathway utilizing carbon dioxide and molecular hydrogen and the catalytic mechanisms of the enzymes based on their crystal structures.

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