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The Regulation of Methane Oxidation in Methanotrophs

Methanotrophs are aerobic, Gram-negative bacteria that utilize methane, a potent greenhouse gas, as a sole carbon and energy source. These bacteria oxidise methane through a unique enzyme system known as methane monooxygenase (MMO), thus reducing of the amount of methane released to the Earth’s atmosphere. In methanotrophs, there are two types of MMO; a membrane bound particulate enzyme (pMMO) and a soluble cytoplasmic enzyme (sMMO). The expression of both enzymes is significantly affected by the availability of copper.


Under high copper-biomass ratio, the biosynthesis of pMMO is switched on, while sMMO is upregulated during growth at low copper-to biomass ratio. The exact role of copper in regulation of MMO in Methylococcus capsulatus and Methylosinus trichosporium is still unclear. We study the mechanisms and regulation of methane oxidation in methanotrophs using molecular genetics and a combination of post-genomic techniques such as proteomics, transcriptomics. We also study the ecology of methanotrophs in a wide variety of environments including wetlands, landfill cover soil and biofilters, methane seeps, wetlands, Arctic tundra, caves, lakes, the marine environment and extreme environments.

Examples of recent research:

Ul Haque, M.F.,Hernández, M., Crombie, A.T. and Murrell, J.C. (2022) Identification of active gaseous alkane degraders at natural gas seeps. The ISME Journal, 16, 1705-1716.

Islam, T., Marcela Hernández, M., Amare Gessesse, A., Murrell, J.C., Øvreås, L. (2021) A novel moderately thermophilic facultative methylotroph within the class alphaproteobacteria. Microorganisms, 9, 477.

Taubert, M., Grob, C., Crombie, A.T., Howat, A.M., Burns. O.J., Weber, M., Lott, C., Kaster, A.K., Vollmers, J., Jehmlich, N., von Bergen, M., Chen., Y and Murrell, J.C. (2019) Communal metabolism by Methylococcaceae and Methylophilaceae is driving rapid aerobic methane oxidation in sediments of a shallow seep near Elba, Italy. Environmental Microbiology, 21, 3780-3795.

Nichol, T., Murrell, J.C. Smith, T.J. (2018) Biochemistry and molecular biology of methane monooxygenase. In: F. Rojo (ed.), Aerobic Utilization of Hydrocarbons, Oils and Lipids, Handbook of Hydrocarbon and Lipid Microbiology, 1-17.

Khmelenina, V.V, Murrell, J.C. Smith, T.J. and Trotsenko, Y.A. (2018) Physiology and biochemistry of the aerobic methane oxidising bacteria. In: F. Rojo (ed.), Aerobic Utilization of Hydrocarbons, Oils and Lipids, Handbook of Hydrocarbon and Lipid Microbiology, 1-25.

Lock, M., Nichol, T., Murrell, J.C. Smith, T.J (2017) Mutagenesis and expression of methane monooxygenase to alter regioselectivity with aromatic substrates.FEMS Microbiology Letters, 364, doi: 10.1093/femsle/fnx137.

Esson, KC, Lin, X., Kumaresan, D., Chanton, JP., Murrell, JC and Kostka, JE (2016) Alpha and gammaproteobacterial methanotrophs co-dominate the active methane oxidizing communities in an acidic boreal peat bog. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 82, 2363-2371


DiSpirito,AA., Semrau, JD., Murrell JC., Gallagher, WH, Dennison, C. and Vuilleumier, S. (2016) Methanobactin and the link between copper and bacterial methane oxidation. Microbiology and Molecular Biology Reviews, 80, 387-409.

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