Nature Reviews Microbiology 6, 579-591 (August 2008) | doi:10.1038/nrmicro1931

Methanogenic archaea: ecologically relevant differences in energy conservation

Rudolf K. Thauer1, Anne-Kristin Kaster1, Henning Seedorf1, Wolfgang Buckel2 & Reiner Hedderich1  About the authors


Most methanogenic archaea can reduce CO2 with H2 to methane, and it is generally assumed that the reactions and mechanisms of energy conservation that are involved are largely the same in all methanogens. However, this does not take into account the fact that methanogens with cytochromes have considerably higher growth yields and threshold concentrations for H2 than methanogens without cytochromes. These and other differences can be explained by the proposal outlined in this Review that in methanogens with cytochromes, the first and last steps in methanogenesis from CO2 are coupled chemiosmotically, whereas in methanogens without cytochromes, these steps are energetically coupled by a cytoplasmic enzyme complex that mediates flavin-based electron bifurcation.

Author affiliations

  1. Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology, Karl-von-Frisch-Strasse, D-35043 Marburg, Germany.
  2. Laboratory for Microbiology, Faculty of Biology, Philipps University Marburg, D-35032 Marburg, Germany.

Correspondence to: Rudolf K. Thauer1 Email:

Published online 30 June 2008


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