Curr Biol. 2018 Jul 9;28(13):R727-R732. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2018.05.021.


Methanogenesis is an anaerobic respiration that generates methane as the final product of metabolism. In aerobic respiration, organic matter such as glucose is oxidized to CO2, and O2 is reduced to H2O. In contrast, during hydrogenotrophic methanogenesis, H2 is oxidized to H+, and CO2 is reduced to CH4. Although similar in principle to other types of respiration, methanogenesis has some distinctive features: the energy yield is very low, ≤1 ATP per methane generated, and only methanogens - organisms capable of this specialized metabolism - carry out biological methane production. Methanogens, like the process they catalyze, are similarly distinctive. Methanogens are comprised exclusively of archaea. They are obligate methane producers, that is, they do not grow using fermentation or alternative electron acceptors for respiration. Finally, methanogens are strict anaerobes and do not grow in the presence of O2. Historically, methanogenesis has been viewed as a highly specialized metabolism restricted to a narrow group of prokaryotes. However, recent developments have revealed enormous diversity within the methanogens and suggest that this metabolism is one of the most ancient on earth.

MeSH terms

  • Anaerobiosis
  • Biological Evolution
  • Euryarchaeota / metabolism*
  • Life History Traits
  • Methane / biosynthesis*


  • Methane