MnDRIVE Funded Research by Sebastian Behrens Published in Scientific Reports Today

Environmental genomic survey provides new insights into microbial processes that form and degrade halogenated organic compounds

An international team of researchers led by Assoc. Prof. Dr. Sebastian Behrens sifted through the complete genomic inventory of a pristine forest soil to uncover the diversity, abundance, and distribution of genes encoding for halogenating and dehalogenating enzymes. Existing evidence suggested that the cycling of halogens (e.g. chlorine, bromine) through the transformation of inorganic halides into organohalogen compounds and vice versa in soils is largely driven by microbial processes. However, the key enzymatic catalysts and the groups of microorganisms involved in these biological reactions in pristine soils have largely been unknown so far. The results have implications for the use of halogens as a tracer of soil-water. They also represent a step towards an increased understanding of natural sources and sinks of organohalogen compounds in the environment, and raise questions about the importance of natural microbial halogen cycling for atmospheric chemistry, earth climate, and bioremediation.

Read the article in the journal Scientific Reports.

The image shows soil overlaid by two arrows connecting the symbols Xin and Xorg. The green arrow from Xorg to Xin is labeled Dehalogenases. The yellow arrow from Xin to Xorg is labeled Halogenases
Schematic representation of microbial halogen cycling in soil. Xorg: organohalogen; Xin inorganic halogen, e.g. chlorine or bromine. Image: Behrens – University of Minnesota.

Weigold, P. et al. A metagenomic-based survey of microbial (de)halogenation potential in a German forest soil. Sci. Rep. 6, 28958; doi: 10.1038/srep28958 (2016).

Sebastian F. Behrens, Associate Professor

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