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Ecology of anaerobic methane oxidizing microbes

Final Report Summary - ECO-MOM (Ecology of anaerobic methane oxidizing microbes)

The overall aim of this ERC project is to obtain a fundamental understanding of the ecological importance of the anaerobic oxidation of methane (AOM). In seven complementary research lines the detection, adaptation, ecophysiology, biochemistry, cell biology, metabolism and application of methane oxidizing micro-organism are investigated.
The genomes of several AOM bacteria and archaea were sequenced and assembled. The genome analysis revealed that the organisms harboured various interesting genes that are highly expressed both in the transcriptome and proteome and include nitrate reductase, nitrite reductase, nitric oxide dismutase, methane monoxygenase and methyl-coenzyme M reductase. New primer sets were developed to detect AOM archaea and bacteria based on 16S rRNA, pmoA, NO dismutase and mcrA genes. This enabled the sensitive detection of the organisms in various ecosystems including paddy soils, peat ecosystems, lake and estuarine sediments. The metabolism and adaptation of the AOM microorganisms was investigated in dedicated bioreactor and microcosm systems and showed an intricate interplay between AOM archaea, AOM bacteria and anammox bacteria. Methylomirabilis AOM bacteria have an unique prokaryotic cell structure that was investigated by electron microscopic methods. Together with several collaborators, joint expeditions to various anaerobic ecosystems were made, and the results showed the presence of both nitrate and iron dependent methane oxidizing microorganisms in the investigated oxygen limited systems. For the applied aspects, the results of the project so far indicate that AOM bacteria and archaea together with anammox are able to remove ammonium and methane from (synthetic) wastewater. An ERC Proof of Concept grant was executed to estimate the market potential of AOM and a business plan for implementation for the new combination was made. The results of this project resulted so far in 63 publications with many more to be submitted, Further, 6 PhD theses have been completed and 3 more are expected soon. The graduates found jobs in academia and industry. The scientific outcome of this ERC project was further disseminated at several conferences, and resulted in numerous invitations for lectures, seminars and public appearances.