Structure and Mechanism of Action of the Enzyme(s) Involved in Methane Oxidation
It is generally accepted that life on this planet evolved around 3.5 × 109 years ago. At that time it appears that the planet was sufficiently cool to permit the permanent existence of water, the atmosphere being comprised principally of methane, ammonia, and hydrogen with traces of carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, dinitrogen and a few noble gases. Clearly the primitive life forms were bacterial in nature and utilized either methane or carbon dioxide or simple heterotrophic substrates produced by electrical discharge from these ‘primitive’ gases under anaerobic conditions for growth. Once the highly toxic oxygen molecule appeared in reasonable amounts in the atmosphere (around 1.7 x 109 years BP) then organisms evolved which could utilize the large amount of energy released by the aerobic oxidation of organic substrates to CO2 and water. In present day terms the existence of aerobic methane-oxidizers had been known for over 100 years but only aroused polite interest until Jackson Foster, here in Texas, revitalized activity in these bugs by reisolating several strains in the late 50’s1. This work prompted others (notably Whittenbury and colleagues) to devise facile isolation and cultivation techniques which led to over 100 new strains being clearly identified2.
KeywordsBiomass Methane Steam Hydrocarbon Vanadium
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