Methanogens rapidly transition from methane production to iron reduction

O. Sivan, S. S. Shusta, D. L. Valentine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

63 Scopus citations


Methanogenesis, the microbial methane (CH4 ) production, is traditionally thought to anchor the mineralization of organic matter as the ultimate respiratory process in deep sediments, despite the presence of oxidized mineral phases, such as iron oxides. This process is carried out by archaea that have also been shown to be capable of reducing iron in high levels of electron donors such as hydrogen. The current pure culture study demonstrates that methanogenic archaea (Methanosarcina barkeri) rapidly switch from methanogenesis to iron-oxide reduction close to natural conditions, with nitrogen atmosphere, even when faced with substrate limitations. Intensive, biotic iron reduction was observed following the addition of poorly crystalline ferrihydrite and complex organic matter and was accompanied by inhibition of methane production. The reaction rate of this process was of the first order and was dependent only on the initial iron concentrations. Ferrous iron production did not accelerate significantly with the addition of 9,10-anthraquinone-2,6-disulfonate (AQDS) but increased by 11-28% with the addition of phenazine-1-carboxylate (PCA), suggesting the possible role of methanophenazines in the electron transport. The coupling between ferrous iron and methane production has important global implications. The rapid transition from methanogenesis to reduction of iron-oxides close to the natural conditions in sediments may help to explain the globally-distributed phenomena of increasing ferrous concentrations below the traditional iron reduction zone in the deep 'methanogenic' sediment horizon, with implications for metabolic networking in these subsurface ecosystems and in past geological settings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)190-203
Number of pages14
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • General Environmental Science
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


Dive into the research topics of 'Methanogens rapidly transition from methane production to iron reduction'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this