Reductive transformation of TNT by Escherichia coli: Pathway description

Hong Yin, Thomas K. Wood, Barth F. Smets

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38 Scopus citations


The reductive transformation of 2,4,6-trinitrotoluene (TNT) was studied using aerobically grown Escherichia coli cultures. In the absence of an external carbon or energy source, E. coli resting cells transformed TNT to hydroxylaminodinitrotoluenes (2HADNT, 4HADNT, with 4HADNT as the dominant isomer), aminodinitrotoluenes (4ADNT, with sporadic detection of 2ADNT), 2,4-di(hydroxylamino)-6-nitrotoluene (24D(HA)6NT), 2,4-diamino-6-nitrotoluene (24DA6NT), and an additional compound which was tentatively identified as a (hydroxylamino)aminonitrotoluene isomer via gas chromatography/mass spectroscopy and spectral analysis. The resting cell assay, performed in an oxygen-free atmosphere, avoided formation of azoxy dimers and provided good mass balances. Significant preference for reduction in the para versus ortho position was detected. The formation of 24D(HA)6NT, but not ADNT, appeared inhibited by the presence of TNT. The rate and extent of TNT reduction were significantly enhanced at higher cell densities, or by supplying an exogenous reducing power source, revealing the importance of enzyme concentration and reducing power. Whether the oxygen-insensitive E. coli nitroreductases, encoded by nfsA and nfsB, directly catalyze the TNT reduction or account for the complete TNT transformation pathway, remains to be determined.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)397-404
Number of pages8
JournalApplied Microbiology and Biotechnology
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biotechnology
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology


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