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Estimation of methanogen biomass via quantitation of coenzyme M

December 1, 1999

Determination of the role of methanogenic bacteria in an anaerobic ecosystem often requires quantitation of the organisms. Because of the extreme oxygen sensitivity of these organisms and the inherent limitations of cultural techniques, an accurate biomass value is very difficult to obtain. We standardized a simple method for estimating methanogen biomass in a variety of environmental matrices. In this procedure we used the thiol biomarker coenzyme M (CoM) (2-mercaptoethanesulfonic acid), which is known to be present in all methanogenic bacteria. A high-performance liquid chromatography-based method for detecting thiols in pore water (A. Vairavamurthy and M. Mopper, Anal. Chim. Acta 78:363–370, 1990) was modified in order to quantify CoM in pure cultures, sediments, and sewage water samples. The identity of the CoM derivative was verified by using liquid chromatography-mass spectroscopy. The assay was linear for CoM amounts ranging from 2 to 2,000 pmol, and the detection limit was 2 pmol of CoM/ml of sample. CoM was not adsorbed to sediments. The methanogens tested contained an average of 19.5 nmol of CoM/mg of protein and 0.39 ± 0.07 fmol of CoM/cell. Environmental samples contained an average of 0.41 ± 0.17 fmol/cell based on most-probable-number estimates. CoM was extracted by using 1% tri-(N)-butylphosphine in isopropanol. More than 90% of the CoM was recovered from pure cultures and environmental samples. We observed no interference from sediments in the CoM recovery process, and the method could be completed aerobically within 3 h. Freezing sediment samples resulted in 46 to 83% decreases in the amounts of detectable CoM, whereas freezing had no effect on the amounts of CoM determined in pure cultures. The method described here provides a quick and relatively simple way to estimate methanogenic biomass.

Citation Information

Publication Year 1999
Title Estimation of methanogen biomass via quantitation of coenzyme M
DOI 10.1128/AEM.65.12.5541-5545.1999
Authors Dwayne A. Elias, Lee R. Krumholz, Ralph S. Tanner, Joseph M. Suflita
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Applied and Environmental Microbiology
Index ID 70185681
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Toxic Substances Hydrology Program