New publication on methylotrophic methanogens in freshwater wetlands

This study uses field work, laboratory microcosms, and multiple types of omics data to gain new insights into how methylotrophic methanogens contribute to carbon cycling in the Old Woman Creek freshwater wetlands.

Narrowe, A.B., Borton, M.A., Hoyt, D.W., Smith, G.J., Daly, R.A., Angle, J.C., Eder, E.K., Wong, A.R., Wolfe, R.A., Pappas, A., Bohrer, G., Miller, C.S. & Wrighton, K.C., 2019. Uncovering the Diversity and Activity of Methylotrophic Methanogens in Freshwater Wetland Soils W. Orsi, ed. mSystems, 4(6), pp.e00320-19. [link to mSystems]


Wetland soils are one of the largest natural contributors to the emission of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Currently, microbial contributions to methane emissions from these systems emphasize the roles of acetoclastic and hydrogenotrophic methanogens, while less frequently considering methyl-group substrates (e.g., methanol and methylamines). Here, we integrated laboratory and field experiments to explore the potential for methylotrophic methanogenesis in Old Woman Creek (OWC), a temperate freshwater wetland located in Ohio, USA. We first demonstrated the capacity for methylotrophic methanogenesis in these soils using laboratory soil microcosms amended with trimethylamine. However, subsequent field porewater nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) analyses to identify methanogenic substrates failed to detect evidence for methylamine compounds in soil porewaters, instead noting the presence of the methylotrophic substrate methanol. Accordingly, our wetland soil-derived metatranscriptomic data indicated that methanol utilization by the Methanomassiliicoccaceae was the likely source of methylotrophic methanogenesis. Methanomassiliicoccaceae relative contributions to mcrA transcripts nearly doubled with depth, accounting for up to 8% of the mcrA transcripts in 25-cm-deep soils. Longitudinal 16S rRNA amplicon and mcrA gene surveys demonstrated that Methanomassiliicoccaceae were stably present over 2 years across lateral and depth gradients in this wetland. Meta-analysis of 16S rRNA sequences similar (>99%) to OWC Methanomassiliicoccaceae in public databases revealed a global distribution, with a high representation in terrestrial soils and sediments. Together, our results demonstrate that methylotrophic methanogenesis likely contributes to methane flux from climatically relevant wetland soils.