Relationship of formate to growth and methanogenesis by Methanococcus thermolithotrophicus

N Belay, R Sparling, L Daniels
Applied and Environmental Microbiology 1986, 52 (5): 1080-5
Methanococcus thermolithotrophicus is a methanogenic archaebacterium that can use either H2 or formate as its source of electrons for reduction of CO2 to methane. Growth and suspended-whole-cell experiments show that H2 plus CO2 methanogenesis was constitutive, while formate methanogenesis required adaptation time; selenium was necessary for formate utilization. Cells grown on formate had 20 to 100 times higher methanogenesis rates on formate than cells grown on H2-CO2 and transferred into formate medium. Enzyme assays with crude extracts and with F420 or methyl viologen as the electron acceptor revealed that hydrogenase was constitutive, while formate dehydrogenase was regulated. Cells grown on formate had 10 to 70 times higher formate dehydrogenase activity than cells grown on H2-CO2 with Se present in the medium; when no Se was added to H2-CO2 cultures, even lower activities were observed. Adaptation to and growth on formate were pH dependent, with an optimal pH for both about one pH unit above that optimal for H2-CO2 (pH 5.8 to 6.5). When cells were grown on H2-CO2 in the presence of formate, formate (greater than or equal to 50 mM) inhibited both growth and methanogenesis at pH 5.8 to 6.2, but not at pH greater than 6.6. Both acetate and propionate produced similar inhibition. Formate inhibition was also observed in Methanospirillum hungatei.

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