Bacterial dehalogenation

Appl Microbiol Biotechnol. 1998 Dec;50(6):633-57. doi: 10.1007/s002530051346.


Halogenated organic compounds are produced industrially in large quantities and represent an important class of environmental pollutants. However, an abundance of haloorganic compounds is also produced naturally. Bacteria have evolved several strategies for the enzyme-catalyzed dehalogenation and degradation of both haloaliphatic and haloaromatic compounds: (i) Oxidative dehalogenation is the result of mono- or dioxygenase-catalyzed, co-metabolic or metabolic reactions. (ii) In dehydrohalogenase-catalyzed dehalogenation, halide elimination leads to the formation of a double bond. (iii) Substitutive dehalogenation in most cases is a hydrolytic process, catalyzed by halidohydrolases, but there also is a "thiolytic" mechanism with glutathione as cosubstrate. Dehalogenation by halohydrin hydrogen-halide lyases is the result of an intramolecular substitution reaction. (iv) A distinct dechlorination mechanism involves methyl transfer from chloromethane onto tetrahydrofolate. (v) Reductive dehalogenations are co-metabolic processes, or they are specific reactions involved in substrate utilization (carbon metabolism), or reductive dehalogenation is coupled to energy conservation: some anaerobic bacteria use a specific haloorganic compound as electron acceptor of a respiratory process. This review discusses the mechanisms of enzyme-catalyzed dehalogenation reactions, describes some pathways of the bacterial degradation of haloorganic compounds, and indicates some trends in the biological treatment of organohalogen-polluted air, groundwater, soil, and sediments.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / enzymology
  • Bacteria / metabolism*
  • Biodegradation, Environmental
  • Environmental Pollutants / metabolism*
  • Geologic Sediments / microbiology*
  • Hydrocarbons, Halogenated / chemistry
  • Hydrocarbons, Halogenated / metabolism*
  • Hydrolysis
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Oxidoreductases / metabolism
  • Soil Microbiology*
  • Water Microbiology*


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Hydrocarbons, Halogenated
  • Oxidoreductases