Microbial Degradation of Halogenated Compounds

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Science  12 Apr 1985:
Vol. 228, Issue 4696, pp. 135-142
DOI: 10.1126/science.228.4696.135


The mode of degradation of various halogenated compounds in isolated pure cultures and the disposition of the degradative genes have been studied. In many cases the degradative genes are found to be clustered on plasmids and appear to be under positive control. Genetic selection in vivo and genetic manipulations in vitro have allowed construction of strains having wider biodegradative potentials than their natural counterparts. Molecular cloning of the degradative gene clusters for halogenated compounds in vectors with a broad host range also allows the transfer of such genes to a large number of Gram-negative bacteria. The application of 2,4,5-trichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4,5-T)-degrading microorganisms has demonstrated the effectiveness of this strain in removing large amounts of 2,4,5-T from contaminated soil within a short period, and such soil has been shown to support the growth of plants normally sensitive to low concentrations of 2,4,5-T. The two major challenges that must be addressed in the near future are the development of appropriate microbial technology for the decontamination of soil containing hazardous halogenated compounds, and the promulgation of appropriate regulations to ensure the safety and well-being of the public during the application of genetically improved strains in an open environment.