Fractionation of the methane isotopologues 13CH4, 12CH3D, and 13CH3D during aerobic oxidation of methane by Methylococcus capsulatus (Bath)

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Wang, David T.
Welander, Paula V.
Ono, Shuhei
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Aerobic oxidation of methane plays a major role in reducing the amount of methane emitted to the atmosphere from freshwater and marine settings. We cultured an aerobic methanotroph, Methylococcus capsulatus (Bath) at 30 and 37 °C, and determined the relative abundance of 12CH4, 13CH4, 12CH3D, and 13CH3D (a doubly-substituted, or “clumped” isotopologue of methane) to characterize the clumped isotopologue effect associated with aerobic methane oxidation. In batch culture, the residual methane became enriched in 13C and D relative to starting methane, with D/H fractionation a factor of 9.14 (Dε/13ε) larger than that of 13C/12C. As oxidation progressed, the Δ13CH3D value (a measure of the excess in abundance of 13CH3D relative to a random distribution of isotopes among isotopologues) of residual methane decreased. The isotopologue fractionation factor for 13CH3D/12CH4 was found to closely approximate the product of the measured fractionation factors for 13CH4/12CH4 and 12CH3D/12CH4 (i.e., 13C/12C and D/H). The results give insight into enzymatic reversibility in the aerobic methane oxidation pathway. Based on the experimental data, a mathematical model was developed to predict isotopologue signatures expected for methane in the environment that has been partially-oxidized by aerobic methanotrophy. Measurement of methane clumped isotopologue abundances can be used to distinguish between aerobic methane oxidation and alternative methane-cycling processes.
© The Author(s), 2016. This is the author's version of the work and is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License. The definitive version was published in Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 192 (2016): 186–202, doi:10.1016/j.gca.2016.07.031.
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