Current Trends in Methylotrophy

Trends Microbiol. 2018 Aug;26(8):703-714. doi: 10.1016/j.tim.2018.01.011. Epub 2018 Feb 19.


Methylotrophy is a field of study dealing with microorganisms capable of utilization of compounds devoid of carbon-carbon bonds (C1 compounds). In this review, we highlight several emerging trends in methylotrophy. First, we discuss the significance of the recent discovery of lanthanide-dependent alcohol dehydrogenases for understanding both the occurrence and the distribution of methylotrophy functions among bacteria, and then we discuss the newly appreciated role of lanthanides in biology. Next, we describe the detection of other methylotrophy pathways across novel bacterial taxa and insights into the evolution of methylotrophy. Further, data are presented on the occurrence and activity of aerobic methylotrophs in hypoxic and anoxic environments, questioning the prior assumptions on niche separation of aerobic and anaerobic methylotrophy. The concept of communal function in aerobic methane oxidation is also briefly discussed. Finally, we review recent research in engineering methylotrophs for biotechnological applications as well as recent progress in engineering synthetic methylotrophy.

Keywords: XoxF; lanthanides; methylotrophy; synthetic methylotrophy.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Dehydrogenase / genetics
  • Alcohol Dehydrogenase / metabolism*
  • Alcohol Oxidoreductases / genetics
  • Alcohol Oxidoreductases / metabolism*
  • Anaerobiosis
  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Bacteria / metabolism*
  • Genetic Engineering
  • Lanthanoid Series Elements / chemistry
  • Methane / metabolism*
  • Oxidation-Reduction


  • Lanthanoid Series Elements
  • Alcohol Oxidoreductases
  • Alcohol Dehydrogenase
  • alcohol dehydrogenase (acceptor)
  • Methane