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“Methanoliparia transforms hydrocarbons by a process called alkane disproportionation. It splits the oil into methane and carbon dioxide,” said lead author Dr. Rafael Laso-Pérez, a researcher at the Max-Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology and MARUM, and his colleagues.

 

“Previously, this transformation was thought to require a complex partnership between two kinds of organisms: archaea and bacteria.”

 

The scientists collected sediment samples from the Chapopote Knoll, an oil seep (about 10,000 feet, or 3,000 m, depth) in the Gulf of Mexico.

 

They carried out genomic analyses that revealed that Methanoliparia is equipped with novel enzymes to use the quite unreactive oil without having oxygen at hand.

 

“This is the first time we get to see a microbe that has the potential to degrade oil to methane all by itself,” Dr. Laso-Pérez said.

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Category: Science