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Environ Microbiol. 2007 Apr;9(4):954-64.

Methanogenesis and methanogenic pathways in a peat from subarctic permafrost.

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Max-Planck-Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology, Karl-von-Frisch-Strasse, D-35043 Marburg, Germany.


Few studies have dealt so far with methanogenic pathways and populations in subarctic and arctic soils. We studied the effects of temperature on rates and pathways of CH4 production and on the relative abundance and structure of the archaeal community in a mildly acidic peat from a permafrost region in Siberia (67 degrees N). We monitored the production of CH4 and CO2 over time and measured the consumption of Fe(II), ethanol and volatile fatty acids. All experiments were performed with and without specific inhibitors [2-bromoethanesulfonate (BES) for methanogenesis and CH3F for acetoclastic methanogenesis]. The optimum temperature for methanogenesis was between 26 degrees C and 28 degrees C [4.3 micromol CH4 (g dry weight)(-1) day(-1)], but the activity was high even at 4 degrees C [0.75 micromol CH4 (g dry weight)(-1) day(-1)], constituting 17% of that at 27 degrees C. The population structure of archaea was studied by terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism analysis and remained constant over a wide temperature range. Acetoclastic methanogenesis accounted for about 70% of the total methanogenesis. Most 16S rRNA gene sequences clustered with Methanosarcinales, correlating with the prevalence of acetoclastic methanogenesis. In addition, sequences clustering with Methanobacteriales were recovered. Fe reduction occurred in parallel to methanogenesis. At lower and higher temperatures Fe reduction was not affected by BES. Because butyrate was consumed during methanogenesis and accumulated when methanogenesis was inhibited (BES and CH3F), it is proposed to serve as methanogenic precursor, providing acetate and H2 by syntrophic oxidation. In addition, ethanol and caproate occurred as intermediates. Because of thermodynamic constraints, homoacetogenesis could not compete with hydrogenotrophic methanogenesis.

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