More “settled science” – Unexpected environmental source of methane discovered

Watts Up With That?

Some nitrogen-fixing microorganisms contain an enzyme for the simultaneous production of ammonia and methane

UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON HEALTH SCIENCES/UW MEDICINE

An unexpected source of methane in the environment has been inadvertently discovered.

Nitrogen-fixing bacteria are the chief means by which nitrogen gas in the air is changed into a form that plants and animals can use. Roughly 10 percent of these nitrogen-fixing microorganisms contain the genetic code for manufacturing a back-up enzyme, called iron iron-only nitrogenase, to do their job.

Recent research reveals that this enzyme allows these microorganisms to convert nitrogen gas to ammonia and carbon dioxide into methane at the same time. The ammonia is the main product; the methane is only a sideline.

This enzymatic pathway is a previously unknown route for the natural biological production of methane.

The findings are reported Jan. 15 in Nature Microbiology. The senior author is Caroline Harwood, the Gerald…

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