Methanotrophs dominate methanogens and act as a methane sink in a subterranean karst cave

Xiaoyu Cheng, Zhilin Zeng, Xiaoyan Liu, Lu Li, Hongmei Wang* (Corresponding author), Rui Zhao, Paul L.E. Bodelier, Weiqi Wang, Yiheng Wang, Olli H. Tuovinen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review


Karst caves are potential sinks of atmospheric methane due to microbial consumption. However, knowledge gaps on methanogens (methane producing microorganisms) and their interaction with methane-oxidizing bacteria (MOB) hinder our further understanding about methane dynamics in karst caves. Here we reported methanogenic community composition and their interaction with MOBs in the Heshang Cave to comprehensively understand methane cycling in subsurface biosphere. MOBs in karst cave were dominated by high-affinity MOB, upland soil cluster (USC), with USCγ pmoA gene abundance within the range of 1.34 × 104 to 1.8 × 107 copies·g−1 DW. In contrast, methanogens were dominated by Methanoregula and cluster ZC-I. The mcrA numbers were 7.21 × 103 to 8.31 × 104 copies·g−1 DW, 1–3 orders of magnitude lower than those of MOB. The inter-domain network analysis indicated that MOBs and methanogens cooperated more in the interior of the cave. Despite of the higher number of methanogenic nodes in the network, MOB dominated the keystone taxa, suggesting a leading functional role of MOB. MOB in caves showed a comparable with or higher potential methane oxidizing rate (PMOR, 0.63 ng CH4·g−1 DW·h−1 in sediment versus 11.02 ng CH4·g−1 DW·h−1 in weathered rock) than those in soils, whereas methane produced by methanogens was undetected. Collectively, high absolute abundances of MOB, high PMORs, the dominance of methanotrophic keystone taxa in the inter-domain network confirmed the superiority of MOBs over methanogens in the oligotrophic karst cave, mounting new evidence on caves as an important methane sink in terms of the interaction between methanogens and MOBs.
Original languageEnglish
Article number164562
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Early online date01 May 2023
Publication statusPublished - 20 Sept 2023


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