Articles | Volume 8, issue 10
Research article
14 Oct 2011
Research article |  | 14 Oct 2011

Effects of copper mineralogy and methanobactin on cell growth and sMMO activity in Methylosinus trichosporium OB3b

E. Chi Fru, N. D. Gray, C. McCann, J. de C. Baptista, B. Christgen, H. M. Talbot, A. El Ghazouani, C. Dennison, and D. W. Graham

Abstract. Controls on in situ methanotroph activity are not well understood. One potentially important parameter is copper (Cu) because it is the metal-centre of particulate methane monooxygenase (pMMO), the most active enzyme for oxidizing methane to methanol. Further, Cu-to-cell ratios influence the relative expression of pMMO versus the alternate soluble MMO (sMMO) in some species. However, most methanotroph studies only have assessed readily soluble forms of Cu (e.g. CuCl2) and there is a dearth of Cu-related activity data for Cu sources more common in the environment. Here we quantified sMMO activity (as a practical indicator of Cu availability) and growth kinetics in Methylosinus trichosporium OB3b, an organism that expresses both pMMO and sMMO, when grown on Cu-minerals with differing dissolution equilibria to assess how mineral type and methanobactin (mb) might influence in situ methanotroph activity. Mb is a molecule produced by M. trichosporium OB3b that has a high affinity for Cu, reduces Cu toxicity, and may influence Cu availability in terrestrial systems. CuCO3.Cu(OH)2 and CuO were chosen for study based on modelling data, reflecting more and less soluble minerals, respectively, and were found to affect M. trichosporium OB3b activity differently. Cells grew without growth lag and with active pMMO on CuCO3.Cu(OH)2, regardless of the amount of mineral supplied (<500 μmoles Cu-total l−1). The organism also grew well on CuO; however, significant sMMO activity was retained up to 50 μmoles Cu-total l−1, although sMMO activity was suppressed by supplemental mb and-or direct cell-mineral contact. Mb addition increased growth rates (p < 0.05) with both minerals. Results show mb broadly stimulates growth, but Cu mineralogy and mb dictate whether sMMO or pMMO is active in the cells. This explains why sMMO activity has been seen in soils with high Cu and also has implications for predicting dominant MMO activity in terrestrial bioremediation applications.

Final-revised paper