In many anoxic environments, methanogenesis is the predominant terminal electron accepting process involved in the mineralization of organic matter, which is catalyzed by methanogenic Archaea. These organisms represent a unique but phylogenetically diverse guild of prokaryotes, which can be conveniently tracked in the environment by targeting the mcrA gene as a functional marker. This gene encodes the alpha subunit of the methyl-coenzyme M reductase (MCR), which catalyzes the last step in methanogenesis and is present in all methanogens. Cultivation-independent analysis of methanogenic communities involves the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) amplification of the mcrA gene from extracted community DNA, comparative analysis of mcrA clone libraries, or PCR-based fingerprinting analysis by terminal restriction fragment polymorphism analysis (T-RFLP). It has also been suggested that anaerobic methane-oxidizing Archaea possess MCR, which facilitates detection of this novel group of "reverse methanogens" as well using the mcrA gene as a functional marker.