Hydrogen is a major lifeline for aerobic bacteria

Chris Greening, Zahra F. Islam, Sean K. Bay

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Molecular hydrogen (H2) is available in trace amounts in most ecosystems through atmospheric, biological, geochemical, and anthropogenic sources. Aerobic bacteria use this energy-dense gas, including at atmospheric concentrations, to support respiration and carbon fixation. While it was thought that aerobic H2 consumers are rare community members, here we summarize evidence suggesting that they are dominant throughout soils and other aerated ecosystems. Bacterial cultures from at least eight major phyla can consume atmospheric H2. At the ecosystem scale, H2 consumers are abundant, diverse, and active across diverse soils and are key primary producers in extreme environments such as hyper-arid deserts. On this basis, we propose that H2 is a universally available energy source for the survival of aerobic bacteria.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)330-337
Number of pages8
JournalTrends in Microbiology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2022


  • actinobacteria
  • hydrogen
  • hydrogenase
  • survival
  • trace gas

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