Found feeding on ethane Archean

Biologists from the Institute of marine Microbiology, max Planck Society, together with colleagues from other organizations has discovered a previously unknown archaea in the seabed of Guaymas basin at a depth of 2000 meters in the Gulf of California, which is fed by ethane. About their work, scientists reported in an article published in the journal mBio.

Some components of natural gas such as propane or butane, is effective for producing energy can use only bacteria. However, according to the latest studies, the decomposition of the main components of natural gas — methane and ethane — requires two organisms that form a consortium. Archaea oxidize natural gas to carbon dioxide, and the resulting bacteria use the electrons for the recovery of sulfate to sulfur or sulfide.

To investigate such biochemical processes in the consortia in the laboratory until now has been extremely difficult. These organisms grow very slowly and divide only every few months. But this only applies to communities, producing methane. The authors of a new study focusing on the consortiums that extract energy from the ethane — a key component of natural gas. Such communities, according to the researchers, are growing much faster.

In the course of work, scientists have explored the archaea species Ethanoperedens thermophilum. They were able to detect this microorganism intracellular intermediates, which are involved in the degradation of ethane, and also the first to sequence its genome. The researchers also found that the decomposition of ethane this microbe reversible. This means that relatives Ethanoperedens could produce ethane from carbon dioxide. It’s very interesting for biotechnological applications. Now a team of researchers engaged in the search for other such organisms. In addition, in collaboration with colleagues they seek to convert methane-producing microorganisms so that they began to synthesize ethane.

“We haven’t figured out all the steps in the degradation of ethane, said Rafael Lazo Perez, one of the authors of the study. — Now we investigate how processes in Ethanoperedens reach such efficiency in the conversion of ethane into energy. If we understand how he could do that, we will be able to cultivate in the laboratory of a new archaea, which can be used for the preparation of compounds produced today only from natural gas”.