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Large Hydrogen Isotope Fractionation Distinguishes Nitrogenase-Derived Methane from Other Methane Sources

Author(s): Zhang, Xinning; Luxem, Katja E; Leavitt, William D

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Abstract: Biological nitrogen fixation is catalyzed by the enzyme nitrogenase. Two forms of this metalloenzyme, the vanadium (V)- and iron (Fe)-only nitrogenases, were recently found to reduce small amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the potent greenhouse gas methane (CH4). Here, we report carbon (13C/12C) and hydrogen (2H/1H) stable isotopic compositions and fractionations of methane generated by V- and Fe-only nitrogenases in the metabolically versatile nitrogen fixer Rhodopseudomonas palustris. The stable carbon isotope fractionation imparted by both forms of alternative nitrogenase are within the range observed for hydrogenotrophic methanogenesis (13αCO2/CH4 = 1.051 ± 0.002 for V-nitrogenase and 1.055 ± 0.001 for Fe-only nitrogenase; values are means ± standard errors). In contrast, the hydrogen isotope fractionations (2αH2O/CH4 = 2.071 ± 0.014 for V-nitrogenase and 2.078 ± 0.018 for Fe-only nitrogenase) are the largest of any known biogenic or geogenic pathway. The large 2αH2O/CH4 shows that the reaction pathway nitrogenases use to form methane strongly discriminates against 2H, and that 2αH2O/CH4 distinguishes nitrogenase-derived methane from all other known biotic and abiotic sources. These findings on nitrogenase-derived methane will help constrain carbon and nitrogen flows in microbial communities and the role of the alternative nitrogenases in global biogeochemical cycles.
Publication Date: 17-Sep-2020
Citation: Luxem, Katja E., William D. Leavitt, and Xinning Zhang. "Large hydrogen isotope fractionations distinguish nitrogenase-derived methane from other sources." Applied and Environmental Microbiology 86 (2020). doi:10.1128/AEM.00849-20.
DOI: doi:10.1128/AEM.00849-20
ISSN: 0099-2240
EISSN: 1098-5336
Type of Material: Journal Article
Journal/Proceeding Title: Applied and Environmental Microbiology
Version: Final published version. This is an open access article.

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