These are extremely efficient at converting methane to methanol using special enzymes housed in internal membranes.
Research like this is important because, often, to be able to utilise potentially useful bacteria such as those which may help reduce unwanted gases in our atmosphere, it is important to create a full understanding of their fundamental characteristics - How do they look, work, and thrive?
Scientists used a combination of Cryo FIB/SEM techniques from Octopus, and Cryo-ET from eBIC to, for the first time, study the makeup of these bacteria in a state of perfect, undisturbed preservation (thanks to the cryogenic element).
Because of this, they discovered that the membrane responsible for methane to methanol production takes a peculiar journey of wrapping around the outside of the bacteria and then twisting into the middle to create folds – much like what we can see in figure 1 B, D, and E.
[Nature Communications (Nat Commun) ISSN 2041-1723 (online)]
Additionally, scientists were able to observe that the particular enzyme responsible for facilitating the conversion of methane to methanol forms trimer arrays within this extensive membrane, providing insights into the high efficiency of the naturally-occurring process.
This has helped scientists to understand where in the bacteria the methane to methanol production actually happens. The results tie into helping us build a better picture of natural methane cycles in the atmosphere, and of Earth's biome as a whole.
Providing this fundamental level of understanding creates a potential jumping-off point for more research to do with this interesting bacteria in the future, including its use in biotechnology relating to climate action.
Access the paper here.