Methanotrophy: An Evolving Field

  • Ludmila ChistoserdovaEmail author


As a field, methanotrophy has emerged in the early twentieth century, marked by the discovery of microbes that could sustain growth on methane gas, using it as the source of both carbon and energy. One hundred plus years later, the field is mature, having accumulated deep knowledge on different modes of methane metabolism, in microbes of different domains of life, bacteria and archaea, both aerobic and anaerobic. The past decade in methanotrophy has been marked by new important discoveries, including novel guilds of methanotrophs, novel metabolic modes, and novel enzymes and pathways, demonstrating that methanotrophy is an evolving field, and, likely, much is yet to be discovered. Future challenges include deciphering the mechanistic details of methane activation by the particulate methane monooxygenase, including the source of electrons in this reaction, understanding the respective functions of redundant enzymes such as alternative methane monooxygenases, methanol dehydrogenases, and other enzymes and pathways, and obtaining further insights into the evolution of methanotrophy, both aerobic and anaerobic. While methane is practically unlimited on this planet, thus presenting an attractive, renewable source of carbon for biotechnological use, including synthesis of fuels, multiple technical challenges exist in harnessing extant methanotrophs as efficient commercial platforms or, reversely, in engineering established platforms, such as E. coli or yeast, to utilize carbon from methane.



Support by the US Department of Energy (DE-SC-0016224) is acknowledged.

Conflict of Interest

The author declares no conflicts of interest.


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© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Chemical EngineeringUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA

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