Methane-forming archaea are strictly anaerobic microbes and are essential for global carbon fluxes since they perform the terminal step in breakdown of organic matter in the absence of oxygen. Major part of methane produced in nature derives from the methyl group of acetate. Only members of the genera Methanosarcina and Methanosaeta are able to use this substrate for methane formation and growth. Since the free energy change coupled to methanogenesis from acetate is only -36kJ/mol CH4, aceticlastic methanogens developed efficient energy-conserving systems to handle this thermodynamic limitation. The membrane bound electron transport system of aceticlastic methanogens is a complex branched respiratory chain that can accept electrons from hydrogen, reduced coenzyme F420 or reduced ferredoxin. The terminal electron acceptor of this anaerobic respiration is a mixed disulfide composed of coenzyme M and coenzyme B. Reduced ferredoxin has an important function under aceticlastic growth conditions and novel and well-established membrane complexes oxidizing ferredoxin will be discussed in depth. Membrane bound electron transport is connected to energy conservation by proton or sodium ion translocating enzymes (F420H2 dehydrogenase, Rnf complex, Ech hydrogenase, methanophenazine-reducing hydrogenase and heterodisulfide reductase). The resulting electrochemical ion gradient constitutes the driving force for adenosine triphosphate synthesis. Methanogenesis, electron transport, and the structure of key enzymes are discussed in this review leading to a concept of how aceticlastic methanogens make a living. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: 18th European Bioenergetic Conference.
Keywords: Anaerobic respiration; Energy conservation; Ion translocation; Methane; Methanogenesis; NADH dehydrogenase.
Copyright © 2013 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.