Environmental evidence for net methane production and oxidation in putative ANaerobic MEthanotrophic (ANME) archaea

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SummaryUncultured ANaerobic MEthanotrophic (ANME) archaea are often assumed to be obligate methanotrophs that are incapable of net methanogenesis, and are therefore used as proxies for anaerobic methane oxidation in many environments in spite of uncertainty regarding their metabolic capabilities. Anaerobic methane oxidation regulates methane emissions in marine sediments and appears to occur through a reversal of a methane-producing metabolism. We tested the assumption that ANME are obligate methanotrophs by detecting and quantifying gene transcription of ANME-1 across zones of methane oxidation versus methane production in sediments from the White Oak River estuary, North Carolina. ANME-1 consistently transcribe 16S rRNA and mRNA of methyl coenzyme M reductase (mcrA), the key gene for methanogenesis, up to 45 cm into methanogenic sediments. CARD-FISH shows that ANME-1 exist as single rod-shaped cells or pairs of cells. Integrating normalized depth distributions of 16S rDNA and rRNA (measured with qPCR and RT-qPCR respectively) shows that 26–77% of the rDNA (a proxy for ANME-1 cell numbers), and 18–76% of the rRNA (a proxy for ANME-1 activity) occurs within methane-producing sediments. These results, along with a re-assessment of the published Iiterature, change the perspective to ANME-1 as methanogens that are also capable of methane oxidation.

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