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Scientists unravel the mystery of marine methane oxidation
Date:11/12/2012

atographic and state-of-the-art spectroscopic techniques we found surprisingly high concentrations of elemental sulfur in our cultures", says Professor Marcel Kuypers and adds: "The single-cell techniques showed that the sulfur content in the methane-degrading archaeon was much higher than in the bacterium. Our experiments show that this sulfur is formed during sulfate respiration."

This finding begs the question: What does the bacterium do if the archaeon does both sulfate respiration and methane oxidation? "The bacteria actually make a living off of the elemental sulfur produced by the archaea," explains Jana Milucka, first author of the study. "The bacteria grow by splitting the elemental sulfur into sulfate and hydrogen sulfide. This is a form of fermentation, like the process that produces alcohol."

"Until now we have always had trouble explaining the occurrence of elemental sulfur in oxygen-free sediments," notes Tim Ferdelman, scientist at the MPI Bremen and coauthor on the publication. "Our discoveries not only provide a mechanism for marine methane oxidation but also cast a new light on the carbon and sulfur cycling in marine, methane-rich sediments."


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Contact: Marcel Kuypers
mkuypers@mpi-bremen.de
49-421-202-8602
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
Source:Eurekalert  

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