Anaerobic Degradation of Paraffins by Thermophilic Actinobacteria under Methanogenic Conditions

Yi Fan Liu, Jing Chen, Zhong Lin Liu, Li Bin Shou, Dan Dan Lin, Lei Zhou, Shi Zhong Yang, Jin Feng Liu, Wei Li, Ji Dong Gu, Bo Zhong Mu*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Microbial anaerobic alkane degradation is a key process in subsurface oil reservoirs and anoxic environments contaminated with petroleum, with a major impact on global carbon cycling. However, the thermophiles capable of water-insoluble paraffins (>C17) degradation under methanogenic conditions has remained understudied. Here, we established thermophilic (55 °C) n-paraffins-degrading (C21-C30) cultures from an oil reservoir. After over 900 days of incubation, the even-numbered n-paraffins were biodegraded to methane. The bacterial communities are dominated by a novel class-level lineage of actinobacteria, ‘Candidatus Syntraliphaticia'. These ‘Ca. Syntraliphaticia'-like metagenome-assembled genomes (MAGs) encode a complete alkylsuccinate synthases (ASS) gene operon, as well as hydrogenases and formate dehydrogenase, and several enzymes potentially involved in alkyl-CoA oxidation and the Wood-Ljungdahl pathway. Metatranscriptomic analysis suggests that n-paraffins are activated via fumarate addition reaction, and oxidized into carbon dioxide, hydrogen/formate and acetate by ‘Ca. Syntraliphaticia', that could be further converted to methane by the abundant hydrogenotrophic and acetoclastic methanogens. We also found a divergent methyl-CoM reductase-like complex (MCR) and a canonical MCR in two MAGs representing ‘Ca. Methanosuratus' (within candidate phylum Verstraetearchaeota), indicating the capability of methane and short-chain alkane metabolism in the oil reservoir. Ultimately, this result offers new insights into the degradability and the mechanisms of n-paraffins under methanogenic conditions at high temperatures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10610-10620
Number of pages11
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number17
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2020


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