Discovery of a novel methanogen prevalent in thawing permafrost

Rhiannon Mondav, Ben J. Woodcroft, Eun Hae Kim, Carmody K. Mccalley, Suzanne B. Hodgkins, Patrick M. Crill, Jeffrey Chanton, Gregory B. Hurst, Nathan C. Verberkmoes, Scott R. Saleska, Philip Hugenholtz, Virginia I. Rich, Gene W. Tyson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

137 Scopus citations


Thawing permafrost promotes microbial degradation of cryo-sequestered and new carbon leading to the biogenic production of methane, creating a positive feedback to climate change. Here we determine microbial community composition along a permafrost thaw gradient in northern Sweden. Partially thawed sites were frequently dominated by a single archaeal phylotype, Candidatus 'Methanoflorens stordalenmirensis' gen. nov. sp. nov., belonging to the uncultivated lineage 'Rice Cluster II' (Candidatus 'Methanoflorentaceae' fam. nov.). Metagenomic sequencing led to the recovery of its near-complete genome, revealing the genes necessary for hydrogenotrophic methanogenesis. These genes are highly expressed and methane carbon isotope data are consistent with hydrogenotrophic production of methane in the partially thawed site. In addition to permafrost wetlands, 'Methanoflorentaceae' are widespread in high methane-flux habitats suggesting that this lineage is both prevalent and a major contributor to global methane production. In thawing permafrost, Candidatus 'M. stordalenmirensis' appears to be a key mediator of methane-based positive feedback to climate warming.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number3212
JournalNature communications
StatePublished - Feb 14 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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