Microbial degradation of chlorinated phenols

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

145 Scopus citations


Chlorophenols have been introduced into the environment through their use as biocides and as by-products of chlorine bleaching in the pulp and paper industry. Chlorophenols are subject to both anaerobic and aerobic metabolism. Under anaerobic conditions, chlorinated phenols can undergo reductive dechlorination when suitable electron-donating substrates are available. Halorespiring bacteria are known which can use both low and highly chlorinated congeners of chlorophenol as electron acceptors to support growth. Many strains of halorespiring bacteria have the capacity to eliminate ortho-chlorines; however only bacteria from the species Desulfitobacterium hafniense (formerly frappieri) can eliminate para- and meta-chlorines in addition to ortho-chlorines. Once dechlorinated, the phenolic carbon skeletons are completely converted to methane and carbon dioxide by other anaerobic microorganisms in the environment. Under aerobic conditions, both lower and higher chlorinated phenols can serve as sole electron and carbon sources supporting growth. The best studied strains utilizing pentachlorophenol belong to the genera Mycobacterium and Sphingomonas. Two main strategies are used by aerobic bacteria for the degradation of chlorophenols. Lower chlorinated phenols for the most part are initially attacked by monooxygenases yielding chlorocatechols as the first intermediates. On the other hand, polychlorinated phenols are converted to chlorohydroquinones as the initial intermediates. Fungi and some bacteria are additionally known that cometabolize chlorinated phenols.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)211-241
Number of pages31
JournalReviews in Environmental Science and Biotechnology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2008


  • Biodegradation
  • Biotransformation
  • Chlorophenols
  • Dechlorination
  • Dehalogenation
  • Organohalogens

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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