, Volume 120, Issue 2, pp 135-139

Carbon isotope fractionation by Methanobacterium thermoautotrophicum

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The fractionation of carbon isotopes by Methanobacterium thermoautotrophicum was studied during growth of the bacterium on H2 plus CO2 as sole carbon and energy sources. A 80% H2/20% CO2 gas mixture was continuously bubbled through the culture. At high gassing rates, in the absence of a “closed system effect”, cells and methane were found to be depleted in 13C relative to CO2 in the gas mixture by 2.4% and 3.4%, respectively. At low gassing rates, when more than 90% of the CO2 was converted to methane, the cells were enriched in 13C by 1.3% and methane was depleted in 13C by 0.5%; residual CO2 was enriched in 13C by 3.4%. The magnitude of isotope fractionation suggests that CO2 rather than bicarbonate is the active species of CO2 mainly utilized in both CO2 assimilation and CO2 reduction to methane. The apparent positive 13C-discrimination in cell carbon synthesis, which was observed at low gassing rates, indicates that most of the CO2 assimilated into cell material is not incorporated via reactions involved in CO2 reduction to methane.