Halogenated organic compounds, also termed organohalogens, were initially considered to be of almost exclusively anthropogenic origin. However, over 5000 naturally synthesized organohalogens are known today. This has also fuelled the hypothesis that the natural and ancient origin of organohalogens could have primed development of metabolic machineries for their degradation, especially in microorganisms. Among these, a special group of anaerobic microorganisms was discovered that could conserve energy by reducing organohalogens as terminal electron acceptor in a process termed organohalide respiration. Originally discovered in a quest for biodegradation of anthropogenic organohalogens, these organohalide-respiring bacteria (OHRB) were soon found to reside in pristine environments, such as the deep subseafloor and Arctic tundra soil with limited/no connections to anthropogenic activities. As such, accumulating evidence suggests an important role of OHRB in local natural halogen cycles, presumably taking advantage of natural organohalogens. In this minireview, we integrate current knowledge regarding the natural origin and occurrence of industrially important organohalogens and the evolution and spread of OHRB, and describe potential implications for natural halogen and carbon cycles.
Atashgahi, S., Häggblom, M. M., & Smidt, H. (2018). Organohalide respiration in pristine environments: Implications for the natural halogen cycle. Environmental Microbiology, 20(3), 934-948. https://doi.org/10.1111/1462-2920.14016