Methanogenic degradation of long n-alkanes requires fumarate-dependent activation

Jia Heng Ji, Yi Fan Liu, Lei Zhou, Serge Maurice Mbadinga, Pan Pan, Jing Chen, Jin Feng Liu, Shi Zhong Yang, Wolfgang Sand, Ji Dong Gu*, Bo Zhong Mu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Methanogenic degradation of n-alkanes is prevalent in n-alkane-impacted anoxic oil reservoirs and oil-polluted sites. However, little is known about the initial activation mechanism of the substrate, especially n-alkanes with a chain length above C16. Here, a methanogenic C16 to C20 n-alkane-degrading enrichment culture was established from production water of a low-temperature oil reservoir. At the end of the incubation (364 days), C16 to C20 (1-methylalkyl)succinates were detected in the n-alkane-amended enrichment culture, suggesting that fumarate addition had occurred in the degradation process. This evidence is supported further by the positive amplification of the assA gene encoding the alpha subunit of alkylsuccinate synthase. A phylogenetic analysis shows these assA amplicons to be affiliated with Smithella and Desulfatibacillum clades. Together with the high abundance of these clades in the bacterial community, these two species are postulated to be the key players in the degradation of C16 to C20 n-alkanes in the present study. Our results provide evidence that long n-alkanes are activated via a fumarate addition mechanism under methanogenic conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere00985-19
JournalApplied and Environmental Microbiology
Issue number16
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • (1-methylalkyl)succinate
  • Biodegradation
  • Fumarate addition
  • Hydrocarbon
  • Long n-alkanes
  • Methanogenesis


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