Some anaerobic bacteria can efficiently eliminate one or more halide atoms from halogenated compounds such as chlorophenols and chloroethenes through reductive dehalogenation. During this process, the bacteria utilize halogenated compounds as the terminal electron acceptors in their anaerobic respiration, called dehalorespiration, to yield energy for growth. Currently the genera of Desulfitobacterium and Dehalococcoides occupy the major part of the dehalorespiring isolates. The former can acquire energy not only by dehalorespiration but also by other respirations utilizing organic compounds and metals. In sharp contrast, the latter is specialized in dehalorespiration and plays a crucial role in the detoxification of chlorinated compounds in nature. From these bacteria, various reductive dehalogenases, which catalyze the dehalogenation reaction, were purified and their corresponding genes were identified. Most reductive dehalogenases exhibit similar features such as the presences of a Tat (twin arginine translocation) signal sequence, two Fe-S clusters, and a corrinoid cofactor. Some of dehalogenase-encoding genes are found to be flanked by insertion sequences. Thus, dehalogenase genes act as a catabolic transposon, and genetic rearrangements mediated by transposable elements occur well in dehalorespirers. Moreover, the genome sequences of some dehalorespiring bacteria provide many insights into the mechanism of dehalorespiration and the evolution of a dehalogenase gene.
2008 The Japan Chemical Journal Forum and Wiley Periodicals, Inc.