Carbon monoxide-dependent energy metabolism in anaerobic bacteria and archaea

Arch Microbiol. 2008 Sep;190(3):257-69. doi: 10.1007/s00203-008-0382-6. Epub 2008 Jun 25.


Despite its toxicity for the majority of living matter on our planet, numerous microorganisms, both aerobic and anaerobic, can use carbon monoxide (CO) as a source of carbon and/or energy for growth. The capacity to employ carboxidotrophic energy metabolism anaerobically is found in phylogenetically diverse members of the Bacteria and the Archaea. The oxidation of CO is coupled to numerous respiratory processes, such as desulfurication, hydrogenogenesis, acetogenesis, and methanogenesis. Although as diverse as the organisms capable of it, any CO-dependent energy metabolism known depends on the presence of carbon monoxide dehydrogenase. This review summarizes recent insights into the CO-dependent physiology of anaerobic microorganisms with a focus on methanogenic archaea. Carboxidotrophic growth of Methanosarcina acetivorans, thought to strictly rely on the process of methanogenesis, also involves formation of methylated thiols, formate, and even acetogenesis, and, thus, exemplifies how the beneficial redox properties of CO can be exploited in unexpected ways by anaerobic microorganisms.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acetates / metabolism
  • Aldehyde Oxidoreductases
  • Anaerobiosis
  • Bacteria, Anaerobic / metabolism*
  • Bacteria, Anaerobic / physiology
  • Carbon Monoxide / metabolism*
  • Energy Metabolism*
  • Hydrogen / metabolism
  • Methane / metabolism
  • Methanosarcina / metabolism*
  • Methanosarcina / physiology
  • Multienzyme Complexes
  • Sulfur / metabolism


  • Acetates
  • Multienzyme Complexes
  • Sulfur
  • Carbon Monoxide
  • Hydrogen
  • Aldehyde Oxidoreductases
  • carbon monoxide dehydrogenase
  • Methane