A review of bacterial methyl halide degradation: biochemistry, genetics and molecular ecology

I R McDonald, K L Warner, C McAnulla, C A Woodall, R S Oremland, J C Murrell

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article (Academic Journal)peer-review

65 Citations (Scopus)


Methyl halide-degrading bacteria are a diverse group of organisms that are found in both terrestrial and marine environments. They potentially play an important role in mitigating ozone depletion resulting from methyl chloride and methyl bromide emissions. The first step in the pathway(s) of methyl halide degradation involves a methyltransferase and, recently, the presence of this pathway has been studied in a number of bacteria. This paper reviews the biochemistry and genetics of methyl halide utilization in the aerobic bacteria Methylobacterium chloromethanicum CM4T, Hyphomicrobium chloromethanicum CM2T, Aminobacter strain IMB-1 and Aminobacter strain CC495. These bacteria are able to use methyl halides as a sole source of carbon and energy, are all members of the alpha-Proteobacteria and were isolated from a variety of polluted and pristine terrestrial environments. An understanding of the genetics of these bacteria identified a unique gene (cmuA) involved in the degradation of methyl halides, which codes for a protein (CmuA) with unique methyltransferase and corrinoid functions. This unique functional gene, cmuA, is being used to develop molecular ecology techniques to examine the diversity and distribution of methyl halide-utilizing bacteria in the environment and hopefully to understand their role in methyl halide degradation in different environments. These techniques will also enable the detection of potentially novel methyl halide-degrading bacteria.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)193-203
Number of pages11
JournalEnvironmental Microbiology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 10 Apr 2002


  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Forecasting
  • Hydrocarbons, Brominated/metabolism
  • Hyphomicrobium/genetics
  • Methyl Chloride/metabolism
  • Methylobacterium/genetics
  • Methyltransferases/genetics
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid


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