Methanotrophic bacteria represent a potential route to methane utilization and mitigation of methane emissions. In the first step of their metabolic pathway, aerobic methanotrophs use methane monooxygenases (MMOs) to activate methane, oxidizing it to methanol. There are two types of MMOs: a particulate, membrane-bound enzyme (pMMO) and a soluble, cytoplasmic enzyme (sMMO). The two MMOs are completely unrelated, with different architectures, metal cofactors, and mechanisms. The more prevalent of the two, pMMO, is copper-dependent, but the identity of its copper active site remains unclear. By contrast, sMMO uses a diiron active site, the catalytic cycle of which is well understood. Here we review the current state of knowledge for both MMOs, with an emphasis on recent developments and emerging hypotheses. In addition, we discuss obstacles to developing expression systems, which are needed to address outstanding questions and to facilitate future protein engineering efforts.
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