Current research efforts in my laboratory are focused on the basic metabolism, environmental importance and commercial uses of chemoautotrophic (bacteria that obtain metabolic energy from the oxidation of inorganic compounds) and methanotrophic (bacteria that obtain all their cell carbon and energy from the oxidation of methane) bacteria. Methanotrophs are distinguished from other microorganisms by their ability to utilize methane as sole carbon and energy source. Methanotrophs are ubiquitous and play a major role in the global cycling of carbon and nitrogen as well as in the degradation of hazardous organic materials.
All methanotrophs employ the enzyme methane monooxygenase to convert methane to methanol in the first step of methane oxidation to CO2 (Fig. 1). One form of the enzyme, the particulate methane monooxygenase (pMMO) is found in most known methanotrophs and is located in the cytoplasmic membrane. Another form, the soluble methane monooxygenase (sMMO) is found in some methanotrophs and is located in the cytoplasm.