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Isolation and purification of Cu-free methanobactin from Methylosinus trichosporium OB3b

Marie-Laure Pesch1, Iso Christl1*, Kurt Barmettler1, Stephan M Kraemer2 and Ruben Kretzschmar1

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Biogeochemistry and Pollutant Dynamics, Department of Environmental Sciences, ETH Zurich, CHN, Universitätstrasse 16, 8092 Zurich, Switzerland

2 Department of Environmental Geosciences, University of Vienna, Althanstrasse 14, 1090 Vienna, Austria

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Geochemical Transactions 2011, 12:2  doi:10.1186/1467-4866-12-2

Published: 7 February 2011



The isolation of highly pure copper-free methanobactin is a prerequisite for the investigation of the biogeochemical functions of this chalkophore molecule produced by methane oxidizing bacteria. Here, we report a purification method for methanobactin from Methylosinus trichosporium OB3b cultures based on reversed-phase HPLC fractionation used in combination with a previously reported resin extraction. HPLC eluent fractions of the resin extracted product were collected and characterized with UV-vis, FT-IR, and C-1s NEXAFS spectroscopy, as well as with elemental analysis and ESI-MS.


The results showed that numerous compounds other than methanobactin were present in the isolate obtained with resin extraction. Molar C/N ratios, mass spectrometry measurements, and UV-vis spectra indicated that methanobactin was only present in one of the HPLC fractions. On a mass basis, methanobactin carbon contributed only 32% to the total organic carbon isolated with resin extraction. Our spectroscopic results implied that besides methanobactin, the organic compounds in the resin extract comprised breakdown products of methanobactin as well as polysaccharide-like substances.


Our results demonstrate that a purification step is indispensable in addition to resin extraction in order to obtain pure methanobactin. The proposed HPLC purification procedure is suitable for semi-preparative work and provides copper-free methanobactin.

Graphical abstract