Microbial metabolism of sulfur- and phosphorus-containing xenobiotics

FEMS Microbiol Rev. 1994 Oct;15(2-3):195-215. doi: 10.1111/j.1574-6976.1994.tb00135.x.


The enzymes involved in the microbial metabolism of many important phosphorus- or sulfur-containing xenobiotics, including organophosphate insecticides and precursors to organosulfate and organosulfonate detergents and dyestuffs have been characterized. In several instances their genes have been cloned and analysed. For phosphonate xenobiotics, the enzyme system responsible for the cleavage of the carbon-phosphorus bond has not yet been observed in vitro, though much is understood on a genetic level about phosphonate degradation. Phosphonate metabolism is regulated as part of the Pho regulon, under phosphate starvation control. For organophosphorothionate pesticides the situation is not so clear, and the mode of regulation appears to depend on whether the compounds are utilized to provide phosphorus, carbon or sulfur for cell growth. The same is true for organosulfonate metabolism, where different (and differently regulated) enzymatic pathways are involved in the utilization of sulfonates as carbon and as sulfur sources, respectively. Observations at the protein level in a number of bacteria suggest that a regulatory system is present which responds to sulfate limitation and controls the synthesis of proteins involved in providing sulfur to the cell and which may reveal analogies between the regulation of phosphorus and sulfur metabolism.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Bacteria / metabolism*
  • Biodegradation, Environmental
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial
  • Phosphorus / metabolism
  • Sulfur / metabolism
  • Xenobiotics / metabolism*


  • Xenobiotics
  • Phosphorus
  • Sulfur