The carbon isotope effects associated with synthesis of methane from acetate have been determined for Methanosarcina barkeri 227 and for methanogenic archaea in sediments of Wintergreen Lake, Michigan. At 37 degrees C, the 13C isotope effect for the reaction acetate (methyl carbon) --> methane, as measured in replicate experiments with M. barkeri, was - 21.3% +/- 0.3%. The isotope effect at the carboxyl portion of acetate was essentially equal, indicating participation of both positions in the rate-determining step, as expected for reactions catalyzed by carbon monoxide dehydrogenase. A similar isotope effect, - 19.2% +/- 0.3% was found for this reaction in the natural community (temperature = 20 degrees C). Given these observations, it has been possible to model the flow of carbon to methane within lake sediment communities and to account for carbon isotope compositions of evolving methane. Extension of the model allows interpretation of seasonal fluctuations in 13C contents of methane in other systems.
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