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Natural gas seeps release significant amounts of methane and other gases including ethane and propane contributing to global climate change. In this study, bacterial actively consuming short-chain alkanes were identified by cultivation, whole-genome sequencing, and stable-isotope probing (SIP)-metagenomics using 13C-propane and 13C-ethane from two different natural gas seeps, Pipe Creek and Andreiasu Everlasting Fire. Nearly 100 metagenome-assembled genomes (MAGs) (completeness 70–99%) were recovered from both sites. Among these, 16 MAGs had genes encoding the soluble di-iron monooxygenase (SDIMO). The MAGs were affiliated to Actinobacteria (two MAGs), Alphaproteobacteria (ten MAGs), and Gammaproteobacteria (four MAGs). Additionally, three gaseous-alkane degraders were isolated in pure culture, all of which could grow on ethane, propane, and butane and possessed SDIMO-related genes. Two Rhodoblastus strains (PC2 and PC3) were from Pipe Creek and a Mycolicibacterium strain (ANDR5) from Andreiasu. Strains PC2 and PC3 encoded putative butane monooxygenases (MOs) and strain ANDR5 contained a propane MO. Mycolicibacterium strain ANDR5 and MAG19a, highly abundant in incubations with 13C-ethane, share an amino acid identity (AAI) of 99.3%. We show using a combination of enrichment and isolation, and cultivation-independent techniques, that these natural gas seeps contain a diverse community of active bacteria oxidising gaseous-alkanes, which play an important role in biogeochemical cycling of natural gas.
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