Ribulose-1,5-Bisphosphate Carboxylase/Oxygenase (RubisCO) is Essential for Growth of the Methanotroph Methylococcus capsulatus Strain Bath

Calvin Henard, Chao Wu, Wei Xiong, Jessica Henard, Brett Davidheiser-Kroll, Fabini Obata, Michael Guarnieri

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14 Scopus Citations


The ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase (RubisCO) enzyme found in plants, algae, and an array of autotrophic bacteria is also encoded by a subset of methanotrophs, but its role in these microbes has largely remained elusive. In this study, we showed that CO2 was requisite for RubisCO-encoding Methylococcus capsulatus strain Bath growth in a bioreactor with continuous influent and effluent gas flow. RNA sequencing identified active transcription of several carboxylating enzymes, including key enzymes of the Calvin and serine cycles, that could mediate CO2 assimilation during cultivation with both CH4 and CO2 as carbon sources. Marker exchange mutagenesis of M. capsulatus Bath genes encoding key enzymes of potential CO2-assimilating metabolic pathways indicated that a complete serine cycle is not required, whereas RubisCO is essential for growth of this bacterium. 13CO2 tracer analysis showed that CH4 and CO2 enter overlapping anaplerotic pathways and implicated RubisCO as the primary enzyme mediating CO2 assimilation in M. capsulatus Bath. Notably, we quantified the relative abundance of 3-phosphoglycerate and ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate 13C isotopes, which supported that RubisCO-produced 3-phosphoglycerate is primarily converted to ribulose-1-5-bisphosphate via the oxidative pentose phosphate pathway in M. capsulatus Bath. Collectively, our data establish that RubisCO and CO2 play essential roles in M. capsulatus Bath metabolism. This study expands the known capacity of methanotrophs to fix CO2 via RubisCO, which may play a more pivotal role in the Earth’s biogeochemical carbon cycling and greenhouse gas regulation than previously recognized. Further, M. capsulatus Bath and other CO2-assimilating methanotrophs represent excellent candidates for use in the bioconversion of biogas waste streams that consist of both CH4 and CO2. IMPORTANCE The importance of RubisCO and CO2 in M. capsulatus Bath metabolism is unclear. In this study, we demonstrated that both CO2 and RubisCO are essential for M. capsulatus Bath growth. 13CO2 tracing experiments supported that RubisCO mediates CO2 fixation and that a noncanonical Calvin cycle is active in this organism. Our study provides insights into the expanding knowledge of methanotroph metabolism and implicates dually CH4/CO2-utilizing bacteria as more important players in the biogeochemical carbon cycle than previously appreciated. In addition, M. capsulatus and other methanotrophs with CO2 assimilation capacity represent candidate organisms for the develop-ment of biotechnologies to mitigate the two most abundant greenhouse gases, CH4 and CO2.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalApplied and Environmental Microbiology
Issue number18
StatePublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2021 Henard et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-2700-80550


  • autotroph
  • biogas
  • greenhouse gas
  • methane
  • methanotroph
  • one-carbon metabolism
  • RubisCO


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