Candidatus Alkanophaga archaea from Guaymas Basin hydrothermal vent sediment oxidize petroleum alkanes

Zehnle et al. (2023). Nature Microbiology 8 (7)
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Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology Cell Biology Genetics Immunology Microbiology Microbiology (medical)
AbstractMethanogenic and methanotrophic archaea produce and consume the greenhouse gas methane, respectively, using the reversible enzyme methyl-coenzyme M reductase (Mcr). Recently, Mcr variants that can activate multicarbon alkanes have been recovered from archaeal enrichment cultures. These enzymes, called alkyl-coenzyme M reductase (Acrs), are widespread in the environment but remain poorly understood. Here we produced anoxic cultures degrading mid-chain petroleum n-alkanes between pentane (C5) and tetradecane (C14) at 70 °C using oil-rich Guaymas Basin sediments. In these cultures, archaea of the genus Candidatus Alkanophaga activate the alkanes with Acrs and completely oxidize the alkyl groups to CO2. Ca. Alkanophaga form a deep-branching sister clade to the methanotrophs ANME-1 and are closely related to the short-chain alkane oxidizers Ca. Syntrophoarchaeum. Incapable of sulfate reduction, Ca. Alkanophaga shuttle electrons released from alkane oxidation to the sulfate-reducing Ca. Thermodesulfobacterium syntrophicum. These syntrophic consortia are potential key players in petroleum degradation in heated oil reservoirs.
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