Peatlands represent an enormous carbon reservoir and have a potential impact on the global climate because of the active methanogenesis and methanotrophy in these soils. Uncultivated methanotrophs from seven European peatlands were studied using a combination of molecular methods. Screening for methanotroph diversity using a particulate methane monooxygenase-based diagnostic gene array revealed that Methylocystis-related species were dominant in six of the seven peatlands studied. The abundance and methane oxidation activity of Methylocystis spp. were further confirmed by DNA stable-isotope probing analysis of a sample taken from the Moor House peatland (England). After ultracentrifugation, C-13-labelled DNA, containing genomic DNA of these Methylocystis spp., was separated from C-12 DNA and subjected to multiple displacement amplification (MDA) to generate sufficient DNA for the preparation of a fosmid metagenomic library. Potential bias of MDA was detected by fingerprint analysis of 16S rRNA using denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis for low-template amplification (0.01 ng template). Sufficient template (1-5 ng) was used in MDA to circumvent this bias and chimeric artefacts were minimized by using an enzymatic treatment of MDA-generated DNA with S1 nuclease and DNA polymerase I. Screening of the metagenomic library revealed one fosmid containing methanol dehydrogenase and two fosmids containing 16S rRNA genes from these Methylocystis-related species as well as one fosmid containing a 16S rRNA gene related to that of Methylocella/Methylocapsa. Sequencing of the 14 kb methanol dehydrogenase-containing fosmid allowed the assembly of a gene cluster encoding polypeptides involved in bacterial methanol utilization (mxaFJGIRSAC). This combination of DNA stable-isotope probing, MDA and metagenomics provided access to genomic information of a relatively large DNA fragment of these thus far uncultivated, predominant and active methanotrophs in peatland soil
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