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Microbial Stabilization and Kinetic Enhancement of Marine Methane Hydrates

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journal contribution
posted on 26.11.2019 by Mohammad Reza Ghaani, Christopher C. R. Allen, Jonathan M. Young, Prithwish K. Nandi, Shamsudeen U. Dandare, Timofey Skvortsov, Niall J. English

In clathrate hydrates, a water host lattice encages small guest molecules in cavities. Methane hydrates are the most widespread in-situ clathrate in the permafrost and continental-shelf ocean regions, constituting a significant energy resource, and prompting recent marine-hydrate gas-production trials. Despite exciting engineering advances and a few marine-mimicking laboratory studies of methane-hydrate kinetics and stabilization, from microbial perspectives, little is known about a potential microbial origin of marine hydrates, nor their possible formation kinetics or potential stabilization by microbial sources. Here, for the first time, we show that an exported, extra-cytoplasmic porin – produced by a marine methylotrophic bacterium culture – provides the basis for kinetic enhancement and stabilization of methane hydrates under conditions simulating the seabed environment. We then identify the key protein at play, and we therefore suggest microbe-based stabilization of marine hydrates is evidently a property likely to be found in many marine bacteria. Our research opens the possibility of managing marine-hydrate deposits using microbiological strategies for environmental and societal benefit.


NE, PKN and MRG thank Science Foundation Ireland for funding under grant [SFI 15/ERC-I3142]. MRG also thanks the Irish Research Council for a Government-of-Ireland postdoctoral fellowship [GOIPD/2016/365]. CCRA and TK were supported by a QUB AFQCC grant funded by Invest Northern Ireland. SD was supported by a Commonwealth PhD Scholarship. JY was supported by a DENI studentship. Mass spectrometry analysis was supported by the Wellcome Trust [grant number 094476/Z/10/Z] which funded the purchase of the TripleTOF 5600 mass spectrometer at the BSRC Mass Spectrometry and Proteomics Facility, University of St Andrews.