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Extremophilic microbes enable new methane pathways

By Mary Page Bailey |

Microbes inhabiting the extreme environments thousands of feet below the earth’s surface possess unique properties not encountered elsewhere. A research consortium of South Dakota School of Mines and Technology (SDSMT; Rapid City; www.sdsmt.edu), University of Oklahoma (Norman) and Montana State University (Bozeman) is investigating these novel microorganisms and their methane-oxidation behavior. The goal of the project is to manipulate the microbes to enhance their methane-uptake capabilities in order to produce value-added products, such as methanol and biopolymers like polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA), as well as bioelectricity. These extreme-environment microorganisms exhibit much higher rates of methane oxidation than their counterparts from more traditional locations, says Rajesh Sani, SDSMT professor and lead researcher of the consortium. South Dakota School of Mines & Technology[/caption] “We have isolated several organisms from deep in the biosphere that were oxidizing methane underground. It was not previously known that they could do this,” he explains. This is the first-ever research project to investigate such microoganisms and their methods for methane regulation in extreme environments. Sani and his team are focused…
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