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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Electron transport in acetate-grown Methanosarcina acetivorans

Mingyu Wang1, Jean-Francois Tomb2 and James G Ferry1*

Author affiliations

1 Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Eberly College of Science, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania 16802-4500, USA

2 E. I. DuPont de Nemours Company, Central Research and Development, Experimental Station, Wilmington, Delaware 19880, USA

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Citation and License

BMC Microbiology 2011, 11:165  doi:10.1186/1471-2180-11-165

Published: 24 July 2011

Abstract

Background

Acetate is the major source of methane in nature. The majority of investigations have focused on acetotrophic methanogens for which energy-conserving electron transport is dependent on the production and consumption of H2 as an intermediate, although the great majority of acetotrophs are unable to metabolize H2. The presence of cytochrome c and a complex (Ma-Rnf) homologous to the Rnf (

    R
hodobacter
    n
itrogen
    f
ixation) complexes distributed in the domain Bacteria distinguishes non-H2-utilizing Methanosarcina acetivorans from H2-utilizing species suggesting fundamentally different electron transport pathways. Thus, the membrane-bound electron transport chain of acetate-grown M. acetivorans was investigated to advance a more complete understanding of acetotrophic methanogens.

Results

A component of the CO dehydrogenase/acetyl-CoA synthase (CdhAE) was partially purified and shown to reduce a ferredoxin purified using an assay coupling reduction of the ferredoxin to oxidation of CdhAE. Mass spectrometry analysis of the ferredoxin identified the encoding gene among annotations for nine ferredoxins encoded in the genome. Reduction of purified membranes from acetate-grown cells with ferredoxin lead to reduction of membrane-associated multi-heme cytochrome c that was re-oxidized by the addition of either the heterodisulfide of coenzyme M and coenzyme B (CoM-S-S-CoB) or 2-hydoxyphenazine, the soluble analog of methanophenazine (MP). Reduced 2-hydoxyphenazine was re-oxidized by membranes that was dependent on addition of CoM-S-S-CoB. A genomic analysis of Methanosarcina thermophila, a non-H2-utilizing acetotrophic methanogen, identified genes homologous to cytochrome c and the Ma-Rnf complex of M. acetivorans.

Conclusions

The results support roles for ferredoxin, cytochrome c and MP in the energy-conserving electron transport pathway of non-H2-utilizing acetotrophic methanogens. This is the first report of involvement of a cytochrome c in acetotrophic methanogenesis. The results suggest that diverse acetotrophic Methanosarcina species have evolved diverse membrane-bound electron transport pathways leading from ferredoxin and culminating with MP donating electrons to the heterodisulfide reductase (HdrDE) for reduction of CoM-S-S-CoB.