Atmospheric hydrogen oxidation extends to the domain archaea

Pok Man Leung, Rhys Grinter, Eve Tudor-Matthew, Luis Jimenez, Han Lee, Michael Milton, Iresha Hanchapola, Erwin Tanuwidjaya, Hanna A. Peach, Carlo R. Carere, Matthew B. Stott, Ralf B. Schittenhelm, Chris Greening

Research output: Other contributionResearch


Diverse aerobic bacteria use atmospheric hydrogen (H2) and carbon monoxide (CO) as energy sources to support growth and survival. Though recently discovered, trace gas oxidation is now recognised as a globally significant process that serves as the main sink in the biogeochemical H2 cycle and sustains microbial biodiversity in oligotrophic ecosystems. While trace gas oxidation has been reported in nine phyla of bacteria, it was not known whether archaea also use atmospheric H2. Here we show that a thermoacidophilic archaeon, Acidianus brierleyi (Thermoproteota), constitutively consumes H2 and CO to sub-atmospheric levels. Oxidation occurred during both growth and survival across a wide range of temperatures (10 to 70textdegreeC). Genomic analysis demonstrated that A. brierleyi encodes a canonical carbon monoxide dehydrogenase and, unexpectedly, four distinct [NiFe]-hydrogenases from subgroups not known to mediate aerobic H2 uptake. Quantitative proteomic analyses showed that A. brierleyi differentially produced these enzymes in response to electron donor and acceptor availability. A previously unidentified group 1 [NiFe]-hydrogenase, with a unique genetic arrangement, is constitutively expressed and upregulated during stationary phase and aerobic hydrogenotrophic growth. Another archaeon, Metallosphaera sedula, was also found to oxidize atmospheric H2. These results suggest that trace gas oxidation is a common trait of aerobic archaea, which likely plays a role in their survival and niche expansion, including during dispersal through temperate environments. These findings also demonstrate that atmospheric H2 consumption is a cross-domain phenomenon, suggesting an ancient origin of this trait, and identify previously unknown microbial and enzymatic sinks of atmospheric H2 and CO.Competing Interest StatementThe authors have declared no competing interest.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages37
Publication statusPublished - 13 Dec 2022

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