Microbial Stabilization and Kinetic Enhancement of Marine Methane Hydrates

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.