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Summary

Methane can be used as an alternative carbon source in biological denitrification because it is nontoxic, widely available and relatively inexpensive. A microbial consortium involved in methane oxidation coupled to denitrification (MOD) was enriched with nitrite and nitrate as electron acceptors under micro-aerobic conditions. The 16S rRNA gene combined with pmoA phylogeny of methanotrophs and nirK phylogeny of denitrifiers were analysed to reveal the dominant microbial populations and functional microorganisms. Real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction results showed high numbers of methanotrophs and denitrifiers in the enriched consortium. The 16S rRNA gene clone library revealed that Methylococcaceae and Methylophilaceae were the dominant populations in the MOD ecosystem. Phylogenetic analyses of pmoA gene clone libraries indicated that all methanotrophs belonged to Methylococcaceae, a type I methanotroph employing the ribulose monophosphate pathway for methane oxidation. Methylotrophic denitrifiers of the Methylophilaceae that can utilize organic intermediates (i.e. formaldehyde, citrate and acetate) released from the methanotrophs played a vital role in aerobic denitrification. This study is the first report to confirm micro-aerobic denitrification and to make phylogenetic and functional assignments for some members of the microbial assemblages involved in MOD.