Biochemistry, Department of


Date of this Version



Emerging Topics in Life Sciences (2018) 2 629–646


© 2018 Nicole Buan. This is an open access article published by Portland Press Limited on behalf of the Biochemical Society and the Royal Society of Biology and distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License 4.0 (CC BY-NC-ND).


Methanogens are anaerobic archaea that grow by producing methane gas. These microbes and their exotic metabolism have inspired decades of microbial physiology research that continues to push the boundary of what we know about how microbes conserve energy to grow. The study of methanogens has helped to elucidate the thermodynamic and bioenergetics basis of life, contributed our understanding of evolution and biodiversity, and has garnered an appreciation for the societal utility of studying trophic interactions between environmental microbes, as methanogens are important in microbial conversion of biogenic carbon into methane, a high-energy fuel. This review discusses the theoretical basis for energy conservation by methanogens and identifies gaps in methanogen biology that may be filled by undiscovered or yet-to-be engineered organisms.