Microbial methane oxidation is an important process to reduce the emission of the greenhouse gas methane. Anaerobic microorganisms couple the oxidation of methane to the reduction of sulfate, nitrate and nitrite, and possibly oxidized iron and manganese minerals. In this article, we review the recent finding of the intriguing nitrate- and nitrite-dependent anaerobic oxidation of methane (AOM). Nitrate-dependent AOM is catalyzed by anaerobic archaea belonging to the ANME-2d clade closely related to Methanosarcina methanogens. They were named 'Candidatus Methanoperedens nitroreducens' and use reverse methanogenesis with the key enzyme methyl-coenzyme M (methyl-CoM) reductase for methane activation. Their major end product is nitrite which can be taken up by nitrite-dependent methanotrophs. Nitrite-dependent AOM is performed by the NC10 bacterium 'Candidatus Methylomirabilis oxyfera' that probably utilizes an intra-aerobic pathway through the dismutation of NO to N2 and O2 for aerobic methane activation by methane monooxygenase, yet being a strictly anaerobic microbe. Environmental distribution, physiological and biochemical aspects are discussed in this article as well as the cooperation of the microorganisms involved.
© 2016 Society for Applied Microbiology and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.