Diverse copper-containing membrane-bound monooxygenase-encoding sequences (Cu-MMOs) have recently been described from the marine environment, suggesting widespread potential for oxidation of reduced substrates. Here, we used the well-defined oxygen and methane gradients associated with the Costa Rican oxygen minimum zone (OMZ) to gain insight into the physico-chemical parameters influencing the distribution and abundance of Cu-MMO-encoding marine microorganisms. Two Methylococcales-related Cu-MMO-encoding lineages, termed groups OPU1 and OPU3, demonstrated differences in their relative abundance, with both pmoA and candidate 16S rRNA genes correlating significantly with reduced environmental oxygen concentrations and depth. In contrast, a newly identified Cu-MMO-encoding lineage, Group C, was primarily associated with the oxygenated euphotic zone. An updated phylogenetic analysis including these sequences, a marine pxmABC gene cluster, ethylene-utilizing Cu-MMO-encoding lineages and previously reported planktonic Cu-MMOs (Groups W, X, Z and O) demonstrates the breadth of diversity of Cu-MMO-encoding marine microorganisms. Groups C and X affiliated phylogenetically with ethane- and ethylene-oxidizing Cu-MMOs, Groups W and O affiliated phylogenetically with the recently described Cu-MMO ‘pXMO’, and Group Z clustered with Cu-MMOs recovered from soils. Collectively, these data demonstrate widespread genetic potential in ocean waters for the oxidation of small, reduced molecules and advance our understanding of the microorganisms involved in methane cycling in the OMZ environment.
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