Aerobic biodegradation of N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA) by axenic bacterial strains

Jonathan O. Sharp, Thomas K. Wood, Lisa Alvarez-Cohen

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104 Scopus citations


The water contaminant N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA) is a probable human carcinogen whose appearance in the environment is related to the release of rocket fuel and to chlorine-based disinfection of water and waste-water. Although this compound has been shown to be biodegradable, there is minimal information about the organisms capable of this degradation, and little is understood of the mechanisms or biochemistry involved. This study shows that bacteria expressing monooxygenase enzymes functionally similar to those demonstrated to degrade NDMA in eukaryotes have the capability to degrade NDMA. Specifically, induction of the soluble methane monooxygenase (sMMO) expressed by Methylosinus trichosporium OB3b, the propane monooxygenase (PMO) enzyme of Mycobacterium vaccae JOB-5, and the toluene 4-monooxygenases found in Ralstonia pickettii PKO1 and Pseudomonas mendocina KR1 resulted in NDMA degradation by these strains. In each of these cases, brief exposure to acetylene gas, a suicide substrate for certain monooxygenases, inhibited the degradation of NDMA. Further, Escherichia coli TG1/pBS(Kan) containing recombinant plasmids derived from the toluene monooxygenases found in strains PKO1 and KR1 mimicked the behavior of the parent strains. In contrast, M. trichosporium OB3b expressing the particulate form of MMO, Burkholderia cepacia G4 expressing the toluene 2-monooxygenase, and Pseudomonas putida mt-2 expressing the toluene sidechain monooxygenase were not capable of NDMA degradation. In addition, bacteria expressing aromatic dioxygenases were not capable of NDMA degradation. Finally, Rhodococcus sp. RR1 exhibited the ability to degrade NDMA by an unidentified, constitutively expressed enzyme that, unlike the confirmed monooxygenases, was not inhibited by acetylene exposure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)608-618
Number of pages11
JournalBiotechnology and bioengineering
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 5 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biotechnology
  • Bioengineering
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology


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