Biochemistry of methanogenesis

James G. Ferry

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130 Scopus citations


Methane is a product of the energy-yielding pathways of the largest and most phylogenetically diverse group in the Archaea. These organisms have evolved three pathways that entail a novel and remarkable biochemistry. All of the pathways have in common a reduction of the methyl group of methyl-coenzyme M (CH3-S-CoM) to CH4. Seminal studies on the CO2-reduction pathway have revealed new cofactors and enzymes that catalyze the reduction of CO2 to the methyl level (CH3-S-CoM) with electrons from H2 or formate. Most of the methane produced in nature originates from the methyl group of acetate. CO dehydrogenase is a key enzyme catalyzing the decarbonylation of acetyl-CoA; the resulting methyl group is transferred to CH3-S-CoM, followed by reduction to methane using electrons derived from oxidation of the carbonyl group to CO2 by the CO dehydrogenase. Some organisms transfer the methyl group of methanol and methylamines to CH3-S-CoM; electrons for reduction of CH3-S-CoM to CH4 are provided by the oxidation of methyl groups to CO2.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)473-503
Number of pages31
JournalCritical Reviews in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1992

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology


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