ClK-edge x-ray spectroscopic investigation of enzymatic formation of organochlorines in weathering plant material


Leri, AC, SCB Myneni, and RG Reina. 2004. “ClK-edge x-ray spectroscopic investigation of enzymatic formation of organochlorines in weathering plant material.Environmental Science & Technology 38: 783-789.


The contribution of halocarbons from plant weathering to the total organohalogen budget of terrestrial systems is gaining recognition. To evaluate the formation of such halocarbons, speciation of chlorine in Sequoia sempervirens (redwood) needles was examined in the presence of an external chloroperoxidase (CPO) enzyme using Cl K-edge X-ray absorption spectroscopy. The Cl forms in fresh and naturally weathered needles and in model laboratory reactions were compared. To provide a straightforward analogue to the enzymatic chlorination in plants, chlorination reactions were conducted for phenol, a common moiety of plant macromolecules. Plant material chlorination was also examined in the presence of hypochlorite in an ancillary mechanistic investigation. The dominant form of Cl in fresh, unreacted plant material was found to be inorganic Cl-, which was partially converted to organochlorine in the presence of CPO. Chlorination is affected by the nature of reactant (CPO, H2O2) addition, reaction time, and temperature. The organochlorines produced in these laboratory investigations closely resemble those produced during the natural weathering of redwood needles. A striking consistency in chlorine speciation observed among the various sample types suggests that (i) CPO produced by terrestrial organisms could play a vital role in the generation of organochlorines associated with the degradation of plant material and (ii) initial targets of enzymatic chlorination might include lignin-like macromolecules rich in aromatic character and hydroxyl groups. These findings lend further credibility to a significant biogenic contribution to the global organohalogen burden by elucidating a probable route of enzymatic chlorination of natural organic matter in terrestrial systems.