International Microbiology, Vol 15, No 1 (2012)

Phylogenetic diversity of methyl-coenzyme M reductase (mcrA) gene and methanogenesis from trimethylamine in hypersaline environments

José Q. García-Maldonado, Brad M. Bebout, Lourdes B. Celis, Alejandro López-Cortés


Methanogens have been reported in complex microbial communities from hypersaline environments, but little
is known about their phylogenetic diversity. In this work, methane concentrations in environmental gas samples were determined while methane production rates were measured in microcosm experiments with competitive and non-competitive substrates. In addition, the phylogenetic diversity of methanogens in microbial mats from two geographical locations was analyzed: the well studied Guerrero Negro hypersaline ecosystem, and a site not previously investigated, namely Laguna San Ignacio, Baja California Sur, Mexico. Methanogenesis in these microbial mats was suspected based on the detection of methane (in the range of 0.00086 to 3.204 %) in environmental gas samples. Microcosm experiments confirmed methane production by the mats and demonstrated that it was promoted only by non-competitive substrates (trimethylamine and methanol), suggesting that methylotrophy is the main characteristic process by which these hypersaline microbial mats produce methane. Phylogenetic analysis of amino acid sequences of the methyl coenzyme-M reductase (mcrA) gene from natural and manipulated samples revealed various methylotrophic methanogens belonging exclusively to the family Methanosarcinaceae. Moderately halophilic microorganisms of the genus Methanohalophilus were predominant (>60 % of mcrA sequences retrieved). Slightly halophilic and marine microorganisms of the genera Methanococcoides and Methanolobus, respectively, were also identified, but in lower abundances. [Int Microbiol 2012; 15(1):33-41]

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