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New Evidence for Origin and Evolution of Archaea Alkane Metabolism Presented

October 29, 2021      Author:

Oct 26, 2021  Editor: Feng Shuo

Recently, the International Center for Deep Life Investigation, SJTU, published a research article titled “A methylotrophic origin of methanogenesis and early divergence of anaerobic multi-carbon alkane metabolism” in top-notch journal Science Advances. Assoc. Prof. Wang Yinzhao and Prof. Xiao Xiang from SJTU School of Life Sciences and Biotechnology are the co-corresponding authors, and Assoc. Prof. Wang Yinzhao is the first author. Prof. Gunter Wegener from Universität Bremen and Max-Plank Institute for Marine Microbiolo and Prof. Tom Williams from University of Bristol are also involved in this research.

This research was to reveal the origin and evolution of alkane metabolism in the domain Archaea, with a focus on alkane metabolism in different environments. Researchers discovered that the genes related to methanogenic metabolism are likely horizontally transferred to multiple archaeal clades, and statistic shows that the ancestral form of this metabolism may have existed before the differentiation of Euryarchaeota, TACK and Asgard.

Ca. Nuwarchaeales, one of the ancient methylotrophic methanogenesis identified in this research, is named after the Chinese mythological figure Nuwa, who saved lives on the Earth by repairing the pillar of the heaven. Likewise, in ancient years, methane methanogens produced could help form greenhouse effect to compensate the low energy of solar radiance and to protect lives on the Earth, so the name bears an indication for the importance of methanogenesis. Also, Ca. Nuwarchaeales is the third archaea named after Chinese mythological figure after Ca. Nezhaarchaeota and Ca. Wukongarchaeota, further enhancing the international influence of Chinese culture. Additionally, the study also discovers various kinds of anaerobic multi-carbon alkane metabolisms. Overall, it expands the current understanding of anaerobic alkane metabolism and archaea with new evidence that alkane metabolism might be one of the basic organism characteristics that archaea share with earlier lives, providing new insights into the origin and evolution of lives.

 

Paper link: https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/sciadv.abj1453

Author: School of Life Sciences and Biotechnology, SJTU

Source: School of Life Sciences and Biotechnology, SJTU

Translated by Zhang Wenying

Proofread by Xiao Yangning

Abstract

Methanogens are considered as one of the earliest life forms on Earth, and together with anaerobic methane-oxidizing archaea, they have crucial effects on climate stability. However, the origin and evolution of anaerobic alkane metabolism in the domain Archaea remain controversial. Here, we present evidence that methylotrophic methanogenesis was the ancestral form of this metabolism. Carbon dioxide–reducing methanogenesis developed later through the evolution of tetrahydromethanopterin S-methyltransferase, which linked methanogenesis to the Wood-Ljungdahl pathway for energy conservation. Anaerobic multicarbon alkane metabolisms in Archaea also originated early, with genes coding for the activation of short-chain or even long-chain alkanes likely evolving from an ethane-metabolizing ancestor. These genes were likely horizontally transferred to multiple archaeal clades including Candidatus (Ca.) Bathyarchaeia, Ca. Lokiarchaeia, Ca. Hadarchaeia, and the methanogenic Ca. Methanoliparia.