(Living on Air)

Atmospheric methane oxidizing bacteria (atmMOB) are the only organisms on Earth that can consume the greenhouse gas methane directly from the atmosphere. This process removes up to 47 million tons of methane from the atmosphere every year, but despite this, atmospheric methane concentrations increase rapidly. How atmMOB will react to these increases are unknown.


In 2019, we provided the first detailed description of an atmMOB, Methylocapsa gorgona MG08. For this achievement we were rewarded the prestigous Cozzarelli prize by the national academy of sciences, USA, in the category Biomedical sciences. 

M. gorgona MG08 is the only confirmed atmMOB in pure culture, allowing for the first time detailed physiological studies of these enigmatic bacteria. LoAir will refine the groundbreaking cultivation techniques that allowed isolation of M. gorgona MG08 to enable fully controlled physiological experiments. We will use M. gorgona MG08 as a model organism to study energy, carbon and nitrogen harvest during growth on atmospheric methane. We will also use our cultivation platform to identify which other types of methane oxidizing bacteria can grow on atmospheric methane. Finally, we will create atmospheric compositions predicted for the future and past to study how increased methane concentrations affect the physiology and methane capture efficiency of atmMOB. This way, LoAir will provide fundamental knowledge about atmMOB. In the extension of LoAir, this knowledge may be used to understand the function of atmospheric methane oxidizing bacteria in the environment and predict their role in scenarios for a warmer future.





Alexander T. TveitTilman SchmiderAnne Grethe Hestnes, Matteus Lindgren, Alena DidriksenMette M. SvenningSimultaneous Oxidation of Atmospheric Methane, Carbon Monoxide and Hydrogen for Bacterial Growth. 2021. Microorganisms

PNAS Science Sessions Podcast with Mette M. Svenning and Alexander T. Tveit: Soil bacterium that lives on air

Alexander T. TveitAnne Grethe Hestnes, Serina L. Robinson, Arno Schintlmeister, Svetlana N. Dedysh, Nico Jehmlich, Martin von Bergen, Craig Herbold, Michael Wagner, Andreas Richter, Mette M. SvenningWidespread soil bacterium that oxidizes atmospheric methane. 2019. PNAS


Andreas Richter - University of Vienna

Michael Wagner - University of Vienna

Nico Jehmlich - Helmholtz-Centre for Environmental Research, Leipzig

Financial/grant information:

Research Council of Norway - 315129 Living on Air





Last update: August, 2022