Methanomicrococcus blatticola is a rapidly growing methanogen with a very high yield of biomass per mol of methane formed. The lack of a rigid cell wall makes it a good candidate for a number of biotechnological applications. Its high affinity for hydrogen allows conversion of even the lowest concentrations of hydrogen into methane, provided that methanol is present. So, it might be also useful to remove methanol efficiently from a complex mixture of fermentation products. The high oxygen tolerance will be useful in certain applications where microoxic rather than anoxic conditions are required. Because M. blatticola occurs not only in the guts of termites, cockroaches, and the larvae of scarab beetles, but also in the rumen of cattle, sheep, and most likely also goat, it makes a substantial contribution to atmospheric methane. Any information that might offer a possibility to control methane production in these organisms will be useful in attempts to reduce the methane emissions from farm animals. Recently, a number of publications have emphasized the role of symbiotic gut organisms for the health and the immune system of the hosts. Knowledge of the M. blatticola genome promises results that have the chance to help improve human and animal health.
Principal Investigators: Johannes H.P. Hackstein, Jan Keltjens, and Martijn A Huynen (Radboud University Nijmegen); Scott E Baker (Pacific Northwest Natl. Lab.); Rolf Thauer (Max Planck Inst. for Terrestrial Microbiology); Uwe Deppenmeier (Univ. of Wisconsin-Milwaukee); and Willem M. de Vos and Hauke Smidt (Wageningen Univ.).