The Role of Nickel in Methanogenic Bacteria

  • William L. Ellefson
  • William B. Whitman
Part of the Basic Life Sciences book series


The methanogenic bacteria are strict anaerobes which synthesize methane from H2 and CO2, acetate, formate, methanol, or methylamines. They have two particularly relevant applications: in the anaerobic decomposition of waste materials and the conversion of biomass to fuel. Because of the economic importance of these processes, methanogens might be considered likely candidates for genetic engineering. However, two problems arise. First, methanogenic bacteria are members of the archaebacteria (28). From what is known about these organisms, we can expect that their biology will be as different from the eubacteria as the biology of the eubacteria is different from the eucaryotes. This point was elaborated by John Reeves in this volume. Secondly, not much is known about the biochemistry of the methanogenic bacteria. This is best illustrated by a short description of our knowledge concerning methane synthesis from H2 and CO2 (Fig. 1). Here we consider methanogenesis as occurring by the stepwise reduction of CO2 to methane. Of the five steps described here, only reaction V, the methylreductase reaction, has been described in detail. As we will show, a great deal more needs to be known about the methylreductase. So for the present time genetic engineers will have to cope with an unfamiliar organism and a largely unknown biochemistry.


Methanogenic Bacterium Methanosarcina Barkeri Stainless Steel Probe Carbon Monoxide Dehydrogenase Methanobacterium Thermoautotrophicum 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1982

Authors and Affiliations

  • William L. Ellefson
    • 1
  • William B. Whitman
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of MicrobiologyUniversity of IllinoisUrbanaUSA

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