Biogenic formation of amorphous carbon by anaerobic methanotrophs and select methanogens


Elemental carbon exists in different structural forms including graphite, diamond, fullerenes, and amorphous carbon. In nature, these materials are produced through abiotic chemical processes under high temperature and pressure but are considered generally inaccessible to biochemical synthesis or breakdown. Here, we identified and characterized elemental carbon isolated from consortia of anaerobic methanotrophic archaea (ANME) and sulfate-reducing bacteria (SRB), which together carry out the anaerobic oxidation of methane (AOM). Two different AOM consortia, ANME-1a/HotSeep-1 and ANME-2a/c/Seep-SRB, produce a black material with similar characteristics to disordered graphite and amorphous carbon. Stable isotope probing studies revealed that the carbon is microbially generated during AOM. In addition, we found that select methanogens also produce amorphous carbon with similar characteristics to the carbon from AOM consortia. Biogenic amorphous carbon may serve as a conductive element to facilitate electron transfer, or redox active functional groups associated with the carbon could act as electron donors and acceptors.