Methane-Oxidizing Enzymes: An Upstream Problem in Biological Gas-to-Liquids Conversion

Thomas J. Lawton, Amy C. Rosenzweig*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Scopus citations


Biological conversion of natural gas to liquids (Bio-GTL) represents an immense economic opportunity. In nature, aerobic methanotrophic bacteria and anaerobic archaea are able to selectively oxidize methane using methane monooxygenase (MMO) and methyl coenzyme M reductase (MCR) enzymes. Although significant progress has been made toward genetically manipulating these organisms for biotechnological applications, the enzymes themselves are slow, complex, and not recombinantly tractable in traditional industrial hosts. With turnover numbers of 0.16-13 s-1, these enzymes pose a considerable upstream problem in the biological production of fuels or chemicals from methane. Methane oxidation enzymes will need to be engineered to be faster to enable high volumetric productivities; however, efforts to do so and to engineer simpler enzymes have been minimally successful. Moreover, known methane-oxidizing enzymes have different expression levels, carbon and energy efficiencies, require auxiliary systems for biosynthesis and function, and vary considerably in terms of complexity and reductant requirements. The pros and cons of using each methane-oxidizing enzyme for Bio-GTL are considered in detail. The future for these enzymes is bright, but a renewed focus on studying them will be critical to the successful development of biological processes that utilize methane as a feedstock.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9327-9340
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number30
StatePublished - Aug 3 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry
  • Colloid and Surface Chemistry


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