Methanogenesis, the biological production of methane, plays a pivotal role in the global carbon cycle and contributes significantly to global warming. The majority of methane in nature is derived from acetate. Here we report the complete genome sequence of an acetate-utilizing methanogen, Methanosarcina acetivorans C2A. Methanosarcineae are the most metabolically diverse methanogens, thrive in a broad range of environments, and are unique among the Archaea in forming complex multicellular structures. This diversity is reflected in the genome of M. acetivorans. At 5,751,492 base pairs it is by far the largest known archaeal genome. The 4524 open reading frames code for a strikingly wide and unanticipated variety of metabolic and cellular capabilities. The presence of novel methyltransferases indicates the likelihood of undiscovered natural energy sources for methanogenesis, whereas the presence of single-subunit carbon monoxide dehydrogenases raises the possibility of nonmethanogenic growth. Although motility has not been observed in any Methanosarcineae, a flagellin gene cluster and two complete chemotaxis gene clusters were identified. The availability of genetic methods, coupled with its physiological and metabolic diversity, makes M. acetivorans a powerful model organism for the study of archaeal biology.
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