Nothing lasts forever: understanding microbial biodegradation of polyfluorinated compounds and perfluorinated alkyl substances

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations

Abstract

Poly- and perfluorinated chemicals, including perfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS), are pervasive in today’s society, with a negative impact on human and ecosystem health continually emerging. These chemicals are now subject to strict government regulations, leading to costly environmental remediation efforts. Commercial polyfluorinated compounds have been called ‘forever chemicals’ due to their strong resistance to biological and chemical degradation. Environmental cleanup by bioremediation is not considered practical currently. Implementation of bioremediation will require uncovering and understanding the rare microbial successes in degrading these compounds. This review discusses the underlying reasons why microbial degradation of heavily fluorinated compounds is rare. Fluorinated and chlorinated compounds are very different with respect to chemistry and microbial physiology. Moreover, the end product of biodegradation, fluoride, is much more toxic than chloride. It is imperative to understand these limitations, and elucidate physiological mechanisms of defluorination, in order to better discover, study, and engineer bacteria that can efficiently degrade polyfluorinated compounds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)773-792
Number of pages20
JournalMicrobial biotechnology
Volume15
Issue number3
Early online dateSep 27 2021
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 27 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was funded by the MnDRIVE Environment fund of the University of Minnesota. I wish to thank the following people for their reading and constructive commentary on the manuscript: Kelly Aukema, Maddy Bygd, Serina Robinson, and Matt Simcik. A special thanks to Jack Richman, whose expertise in organofluorine chemistry was critically helpful. This work was funded by the MnDRIVE Industry and Environment fund of the University of Minnesota.

Funding Information:
This work was funded by the MnDRIVE Environment fund of the University of Minnesota.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Authors. Microbial Biotechnology published by Society for Applied Microbiology and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

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