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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Hydrogen production by methanogens under low-hydrogen conditions

  • Author(s): Valentine, DL
  • Blanton, DC
  • Reeburgh, WS
  • et al.

Hydrogen production was studied in four species of methanogens (Methanothermobacter marburgensis, Methanosaeta thermophila, Methanosarcina barkeri, and Methanosaeta concilii) under conditions of low (sub-nanomolar) ambient hydrogen concentration using a specially designed culture apparatus. Transient hydrogen production was observed and quantified for each species studied. Methane was excluded as the electron source, as was all organic material added during growth of the cultures (acetate, yeast extract, peptone). Hydrogen production showed a strong temperature dependence, and production ceased at temperatures below the growth range of the organisms. Addition of polysulfides to the cultures greatly decreased hydrogen production. The addition of bromoethanesulfonic acid had little influence on hydrogen production. These experiments demonstrate that some methanogens produce excess reducing equivalents during growth and convert them to hydrogen when the ambient hydrogen concentration becomes low. The lack of sustained hydrogen production by the cultures in the presence of methane provides evidence against 'reverse methanogenesis' as the mechanism for anaerobic methane oxidation.

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