The Desulfitobacterium Genus

FEMS Microbiol Rev. 2006 Sep;30(5):706-33. doi: 10.1111/j.1574-6976.2006.00029.x.


Desulfitobacterium spp. are strictly anaerobic bacteria that were first isolated from environments contaminated by halogenated organic compounds. They are very versatile microorganisms that can use a wide variety of electron acceptors, such as nitrate, sulfite, metals, humic acids, and man-made or naturally occurring halogenated organic compounds. Most of the Desulfitobacterium strains can dehalogenate halogenated organic compounds by mechanisms of reductive dehalogenation, although the substrate spectrum of halogenated organic compounds varies substantially from one strain to another, even with strains belonging to the same species. A number of reductive dehalogenases and their corresponding gene loci have been isolated from these strains. Some of these loci are flanked by transposition sequences, suggesting that they can be transmitted by horizontal transfer via a catabolic transposon. Desulfitobacterium spp. can use H2 as electron donor below the threshold concentration that would allow sulfate reduction and methanogenesis. Furthermore, there is some evidence that syntrophic relationships occur between Desulfitobacterium spp. and sulfate-reducing bacteria, from which the Desulfitobacterium cells acquire their electrons by interspecies hydrogen transfer, and it is believed that this relationship also occurs in a methanogenic consortium. Because of their versatility, desulfitobacteria can be excellent candidates for the development of anaerobic bioremediation processes. The release of the complete genome of Desulfitobacterium hafniense strain Y51 and information from the partial genome sequence of D. hafniense strain DCB-2 will certainly help in predicting how desulfitobacteria interact with their environments and other microorganisms, and the mechanisms of actions related to reductive dehalogenation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biodegradation, Environmental
  • Chlorine / metabolism
  • Desulfitobacterium / classification
  • Desulfitobacterium / genetics*
  • Desulfitobacterium / metabolism*
  • Genes, Bacterial
  • Genes, rRNA
  • Humic Substances
  • Hydrogen / metabolism
  • Metals / metabolism
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Phylogeny
  • Sulfites / metabolism


  • Humic Substances
  • Metals
  • Sulfites
  • Chlorine
  • Hydrogen