Methane-Producing Microbe Sequenced by Team at University of Washington

Unusual features included the absence of a Cdc6 homolog.

The Science

Methanococcus maripaludis generates energy (and “waste” methane) by combining hydrogen and CO2. This Archaeon, a representative of the possibly oldest branch of the tree of life, contains 1,722 protein-coding genes in a single circular chromosome of 1,661,137 bp. Of the protein-coding genes (open reading frames [ORFs]), 44% were assigned a function, 48% were conserved but had unknown or uncertain functions, and 7.5% (129 ORFs) were unique to M. maripaludis. Genes for most of the previously known functions and pathways were identified. For example, a full complement of enzymes for using hydrogen to make methane was identified. Methane (natural gas) is a commonly used, very low polluting energy source in municipal bus fleets in a number of cities and microbial production of methane is a possible option for generating this renewable energy source.


The methanogenic Archaea (methanogens) occupy a unique metabolic niche, as they produce methane, which is a useful energy source and a powerful greenhouse gas. A team of 31 scientists, headed by John Leigh of the University of Washington in Seattle, including Miriam Land and Frank Larimer of the Oak Ridge National Lab, has sequenced, annotated, and analyzed the complete genome of a methane-producing microbe, Methanococcus maripaludis.

Principal Investigator

John Leigh
University of Washington–Seattle

BER Program Manager

Ramana Madupu

U.S. Department of Energy, Biological and Environmental Research (SC-33)
Biological Systems Science Division
[email protected]


E. L. HendricksonR. KaulY. ZhouD. BoveeP. ChapmanJ. ChungE. Conway de MacarioJ. A. DodsworthW. GillettD. E. GrahamM. HackettA. K. HaydockA. KangM. L. LandR. LevyT. J. LieT. A. MajorB. C. MooreI. PoratA. PalmeiriG. RouseC. SaenphimmachakD. SöllS. Van DienT. WangW. B. WhitmanQ. XiaY. ZhangF. W. LarimerM. V. Olson, and J. A. Leigh. 2004. “Complete Genome Sequence of the Genetically Tractable Hydrogenotrophic Methanogen Methanococcus maripaludis,” Journal of Bacteriology 186(20). DOI:10.1128/jb.186.20.6956-6969.2004.