Methanogens are anaerobic archaea that grow by producing methane, a gas that is both an efficient renewable fuel and a potent greenhouse gas. We observed that overexpression of the cytoplasmic heterodisulfide reductase enzyme HdrABC increased the rate of methane production from methanol by 30% without affecting the growth rate relative to the parent strain. Hdr enzymes are essential in all known methane-producing archaea. They function as the terminal oxidases in the methanogen electron transport system by reducing the coenzyme M (2-mercaptoethane sulfonate) and coenzyme B (7-mercaptoheptanoylthreonine sulfonate) heterodisulfide, CoM-S-S-CoB, to regenerate the thiol-coenzymes for reuse. In Methanosarcina acetivorans, HdrABC expression caused an increased rate of methanogenesis and a decrease in metabolic efficiency on methylotrophic substrates. When acetate was the sole carbon and energy source, neither deletion nor overexpression of HdrABC had an effect on growth or methane production rates. These results suggest that in cells grown on methylated substrates, the cell compensates for energy losses due to expression of HdrABC with an increased rate of substrate turnover and that HdrABC lacks the appropriate electron donor in acetate-grown cells.
Copyright © 2015, Catlett et al.