Chloroform (CF) is largely produced by both anthropogenic and natural sources. It is detected in ground and surface water sources and it represents the most abundant halocarbon in the atmosphere. Microbial CF degradation occurs under both aerobic and anaerobic conditions. Apart from a few reports describing the utilization of CF as a terminal electron acceptor during growth, CF degradation was mainly reported as a cometabolic process. CF aerobic cometabolism is supported by growth on short-chain alkanes (i.e., methane, propane, butane, and hexane), aromatic hydrocarbons (i.e., toluene and phenol), and ammonia via the activity of monooxygenases (MOs) operatively divided into different families. The main factors affecting CF cometabolism are (1) the inhibition of CF degradation exerted by the growth substrate, the need for reductant supply to maintain MO activity, and the toxicity of CF degradation products. Under anaerobic conditions, CF degradation was mainly associated to the activity of methanogens, although some examples of CF-degrading sulfate-reducing, fermenting, and acetogenic bacteria are reported in the literature. Higher CF toxicity levels and lower degradation rates were shown by anaerobic systems in comparison to the aerobic ones. Applied physiological and genetic aspects of microbial cometabolism of CF will be presented along with bioremediation perspectives.
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