Organofluorine compounds are rare in Nature, with only a handful known to be produced by some species of plant and two microorganisms. Consequently, the mechanism of enzymatic carbon-fluorine bond formation is poorly understood. The bacterium Streptomyces cattleya biosynthesises fluoroacetate and 4-fluorothreonine as secondary metabolites and is a convenient system to study the biosynthesis and enzymology of fluorometabolite production. Using stable-isotope labelled precursors it has been shown that there is a common intermediate in the biosynthesis of the fluorometabolites, which has recently been identified as fluoroacetaldehyde. Studies with cell-free extracts of S. cattleya have identified two enzymes, an aldehyde dehydrogenase and a threonine transaldolase, that are involved in the biotransformation of fluoroacetaldehyde to fluoroacetate and 4-fluorothreonine. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.