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Methods Enzymol. 2005;397:428-42.

Methyl-coenzyme M reductase genes: unique functional markers for methanogenic and anaerobic methane-oxidizing Archaea.

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Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology, Marburg, Germany.


In many anoxic environments, methanogenesis is the predominant terminal electron accepting process involved in the mineralization of organic matter, which is catalyzed by methanogenic Archaea. These organisms represent a unique but phylogenetically diverse guild of prokaryotes, which can be conveniently tracked in the environment by targeting the mcrA gene as a functional marker. This gene encodes the alpha subunit of the methyl-coenzyme M reductase (MCR), which catalyzes the last step in methanogenesis and is present in all methanogens. Cultivation-independent analysis of methanogenic communities involves the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) amplification of the mcrA gene from extracted community DNA, comparative analysis of mcrA clone libraries, or PCR-based fingerprinting analysis by terminal restriction fragment polymorphism analysis (T-RFLP). It has also been suggested that anaerobic methane-oxidizing Archaea possess MCR, which facilitates detection of this novel group of "reverse methanogens" as well using the mcrA gene as a functional marker.

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