Nitrous oxide respiration in acidophilic methanotrophs

Samuel Imisi Awala, Joo-Han Gwak, Yongman Kim, Man-Young Jung, Peter F Dunfield, Michael Wagner, Sung-Keun Rhee (Corresponding author)

Publications: Contribution to journalArticlePeer Reviewed


Aerobic methanotrophic bacteria are considered strict aerobes but are often highly abundant in hypoxic and even anoxic environments. Despite possessing denitrification genes, it remains to be verified whether denitrification contributes to their growth. Here, we show that acidophilic methanotrophs can respire nitrous oxide (N2O) and grow anaerobically on diverse non-methane substrates, including methanol, C-C substrates, and hydrogen. We study two strains that possess N2O reductase genes: Methylocella tundrae T4 and Methylacidiphilum caldifontis IT6. We show that N2O respiration supports growth of Methylacidiphilum caldifontis at an extremely acidic pH of 2.0, exceeding the known physiological pH limits for microbial N2O consumption. Methylocella tundrae simultaneously consumes N2O and CH4 in suboxic conditions, indicating robustness of its N2O reductase activity in the presence of O2. Furthermore, in O2-limiting conditions, the amount of CH4 oxidized per O2 reduced increases when N2O is added, indicating that Methylocella tundrae can direct more O2 towards methane monooxygenase. Thus, our results demonstrate that some methanotrophs can respire N2O independently or simultaneously with O2, which may facilitate their growth and survival in dynamic environments. Such metabolic capability enables these bacteria to simultaneously reduce the release of the key greenhouse gases CO2, CH4, and N2O.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4226
Number of pages18
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 18 May 2024

Austrian Fields of Science 2012

  • 105205 Climate change
  • 106022 Microbiology


  • Nitrous Oxide/metabolism
  • Methane/metabolism
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Oxidoreductases/metabolism
  • Oxygen/metabolism
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Anaerobiosis
  • Methanol/metabolism
  • Hydrogen/metabolism
  • Oxygenases/metabolism

Cite this