Enrichment of a microbial culture capable of reductive debromination of the flame retardant tetrabromobisphenol-A, and identification of the intermediate metabolites produced in the process

Biodegradation. 2003 Dec;14(6):385-95. doi: 10.1023/a:1027304222436.


Tetrabromobisphenol-A is a reactive flame retardant used in the production of many plastic polymers. In previous research, it was demonstrated that anaerobic microorganisms from contaminated sediment debrominate tetrabromobisphenol-A to bisphenol-A, but an enrichment culture was not established. The current study was carried out to identify the intermediate metabolites in this process and to determine the factors facilitating enrichment of debrominating microorganisms. During the enrichment process in an anaerobic semi-continuous batch reactor, tetrabromobisphenol-A debromination gradually slowed down with concurrent accumulation of three intermediate products. These compounds were tentatively identified using GC-MS as tri-, di-, and mono-brominated bisphenol-A. GC-MS and HPLC analyses showed one dominant metabolite of dibromobisphenol-A, and NMR analysis identified it as 2,2'-dibromobisphenol-A. Addition of sterile sediment (15% wt/wt) to the reactor stimulated debromination of tetrabromobisphenol-A. Furthermore, different solid amendments such as surface soil and pulverized gray chalk from the site subsurface (100 m below ground) were also stimulating agents. We conclude that organic matter is involved in stimulation since the stimulation effect of the sediment, soil and gray chalk was abolished after it was heat-treated to 550 degrees C. Our study suggests that the debrominating culture requires some organic components found in the sediment, soil, and chalk in order to sustain activity and perhaps to survive. The possible mechanisms of stimulation by these solids are discussed.

MeSH terms

  • Anaerobiosis
  • Bacteria, Anaerobic / metabolism*
  • Biodegradation, Environmental
  • Bioreactors
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Flame Retardants / metabolism*
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry
  • Geologic Sediments
  • Hazardous Substances / metabolism
  • Hydrocarbons, Brominated / metabolism
  • Industrial Waste
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Polybrominated Biphenyls / metabolism*
  • Soil


  • Flame Retardants
  • Hazardous Substances
  • Hydrocarbons, Brominated
  • Industrial Waste
  • Polybrominated Biphenyls
  • Soil
  • tetrabromobisphenol A