Tristan Wagner

Head of Group

Microbial Metabolism Research Group, Max Planck Institute for Marine Biology, Bremen, Germany


Some mi­crobes, called meth­ano­gens, have the abil­ity to pro­duce meth­ane, a green­house gas as well as a po­tent bio­fuel. Meth­ano­gens do not breathe oxy­gen. In­stead, they de­rive all their en­ergy from meth­ane pro­duc­tion through a pro­cess called meth­ano­gen­esis, which provides 60 times less chem­ical en­ergy (ATP) than oxy­gen res­pir­a­tion. Since meth­ano­gen­esis is com­pletely de­ac­tiv­ated in pres­ence of oxy­gen, these mi­croor­gan­isms are con­strained to live in an­aer­obic en­vir­on­ment with an ex­treme re­stric­tion of chem­ical en­ergy.

However, meth­ano­gen­esis is an ex­tremely ef­fi­cient pro­cess and the dif­fer­ent chem­ical re­ac­tions in­volved in meth­ane gen­er­a­tion have been op­tim­ized dur­ing bil­lions of years of evol­u­tion. More in­ter­est­ingly, some of the meth­ano­gens are com­plete chemoauto­trophs: they have to build all their ele­ment­ary bricks (DNA, RNA, pro­tein, lip­ids, vit­am­ins…) only from min­er­als and gases.

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