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Nat Microbiol. 2016 Oct 3;1:16170. doi: 10.1038/nmicrobiol.2016.170.

Methylotrophic methanogenesis discovered in the archaeal phylum Verstraetearchaeota.

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Australian Centre for Ecogenomics, School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences, The University of Queensland, St Lucia, Queensland 4072, Australia.
Advanced Water Management Centre, The University of Queensland, St Lucia, Queensland 4072, Australia.


Methanogenesis is the primary biogenic source of methane in the atmosphere and a key contributor to climate change. The long-standing dogma that methanogenesis originated within the Euryarchaeota was recently challenged by the discovery of putative methane-metabolizing genes in members of the Bathyarchaeota, suggesting that methanogenesis may be more phylogenetically widespread than currently appreciated. Here, we present the discovery of divergent methyl-coenzyme M reductase genes in population genomes recovered from anoxic environments with high methane flux that belong to a new archaeal phylum, the Verstraetearchaeota. These archaea encode the genes required for methylotrophic methanogenesis, and may conserve energy using a mechanism similar to that proposed for the obligate H2-dependent methylotrophic Methanomassiliicoccales and recently described Candidatus 'Methanofastidiosa'. Our findings indicate that we are only beginning to understand methanogen diversity and support an ancient origin for methane metabolism in the Archaea, which is changing our understanding of the global carbon cycle.

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