A new genus, Methylocella, and a new species, Methylocella palustris, are proposed for three strains of methane-oxidizing bacteria isolated from acidic Sphagnum peat bogs. These bacteria are aerobic, Gram-negative, colourless, non-motile, straight and curved rods that utilize the serine pathway for carbon assimilation, multiply by normal cell division and contain intracellular poly-beta-hydroxybutyrate granules (one at each pole). These strains use methane and methanol as sole sources of carbon and energy and are moderately acidophilic organisms with growth between pH 4.5 and pH 7.0, the optimum being at pH 5.0-5.5. The temperature range for growth is 10-28 degrees C with the optimum at 15-20 degrees C. The intracytoplasmic membrane system is different from those of type I and II methanotrophs. Cells contain an extensive periplasmic space and a vesicular membrane system connected to the cytoplasmic membrane. The strains grew only on media with a low salt content (0.2-0.5 g l(-1)). All three strains were found to possess soluble methane monooxygenase and are able to fix atmospheric nitrogen via an oxygen-sensitive nitrogenase. No products were observed in a PCR with particulate methane monooxygenase-targeted primers; hybridization with a pmoA probe was also negative. The major phospholipid fatty acids are 18:1 acids. The G+C content of the DNA is 61.2 mol%. The three strains share identical 16S rRNA gene sequences and represent a novel lineage of methane-oxidizing bacteria within the alpha-subclass of the class Proteobacteria and are only moderately related to type II methanotrophs of the Methylocystis-Methylosinus group. The three strains are most closely related to the acidophilic heterotrophic bacterium Beijerinckia indica subsp. indica (96.5% 16S rDNA sequence similarity). Collectively, these strains comprise a new species and genus Methylocella palustris gen. nov., sp. nov.; strain KT (= ATCC 700799T) is the type strain.


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