Methanogen community in Zoige wetland of Tibetan plateau and phenotypic characterization of a dominant uncultured methanogen cluster ZC-I


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Zoige wetland of Tibetan plateau is characterized by being located at a low latitude (33°56′N, 102°52′E) region and under the annual temperature around 1°C. Previous studies indicated that Zoige wetland was one of the CH4 emission centres in Qinghai-Tibetan plateau; in this study, the methanogen community in this low-latitude wetland was analysed based on the homology of 16S rRNA and mcrA genes retrieved from the soil. The results indicated that members of Methanosarcinales and Methanomicrobiales constituted the majority of methanogens, and a novel uncultured methanogen cluster, Zoige cluster I (ZC-I) affiliated to Methanosarcinales, could be dominant. Using quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) assay, ZC-I methanogens were estimated to be 107 cells per gram of soil, accounting for about 30% of the total Archeae. By combining culturable enrichment with qPCR assay, the quantity of ZC-I methanogens in the methanogenic enrichment with acetate, H2/CO2, methanol or trimethylamine was determined to increase to 108 cells ml−1, but not with formate, which indicated that ZC-I methanogens could use the four methanogenic substrates. The growth rates at 30°C and 15°C were not pronounced different, implying ZC-I to be the cold-adaptive methanogens. The broad substrate spectrum identified the ZC-I methanogens to be a member of Methanosarcinaceae, and could represent a novel sub-branch specifically inhabited in cold ecosystems. Fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) images also visualized ZC-I methanogens the sarcina-like aggregate of the spherical cells. The prevalence and flexibility in substrate utilization and growth temperature suggested ZC-I methanogens to be an important player in the methanogenesis of Zoige wetland.