Activation of methanogenesis by cadmium in the marine archaeon Methanosarcina acetivorans

PLoS One. 2012;7(11):e48779. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0048779. Epub 2012 Nov 12.


Methanosarcina acetivorans was cultured in the presence of CdCl(2) to determine the metal effect on cell growth and biogas production. With methanol as substrate, cell growth and methane synthesis were not altered by cadmium, whereas with acetate, cadmium slightly increased both, growth and methane rate synthesis. In cultures metabolically active, incubations for short-term (minutes) with 10 µM total cadmium increased the methanogenesis rate by 6 and 9 folds in methanol- and acetate-grown cells, respectively. Cobalt and zinc but not copper or iron also activated the methane production rate. Methanogenic carbonic anhydrase and acetate kinase were directly activated by cadmium. Indeed, cells cultured in 100 µM total cadmium removed 41-69% of the heavy metal from the culture and accumulated 231-539 nmol Cd/mg cell protein. This is the first report showing that (i) Cd(2+) has an activating effect on methanogenesis, a biotechnological relevant process in the bio-fuels field; and (ii) a methanogenic archaea is able to remove a heavy metal from aquatic environments.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetic Acid / metabolism
  • Biosynthetic Pathways
  • Cadmium / chemistry
  • Cadmium / metabolism*
  • Metabolome
  • Methane / biosynthesis*
  • Methanol / metabolism
  • Methanosarcina / growth & development
  • Methanosarcina / metabolism*
  • Solubility


  • Cadmium
  • Methane
  • Acetic Acid
  • Methanol

Grants and funding

The funding of the grants described in the manuscript (90619, 80534, 123636 and 156969 from CONACyT and # PICS08-5 from ICyTDF, Mexico) were used for acquisition of lab materials, chemicals and small equipmnet. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.