Inhibition effect of 2,4,6-trinitrotoluene (TNT) on RDX degradation by rhodococcus strains isolated from contaminated soil and water

Swati Gupta, Hagar Siebner, Gurunath Ramanathan, Zeev Ronen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


2,4,6-trinitrotoluene (TNT) is a highly toxic explosive that contaminates soil and water and may interfere with the degradation of co-occurring compounds, such as hexahydro-1,3,5-trinitro-1,3,5-triazine (RDX). We proposed that TNT may influence RDX-degrading bacteria via either general toxicity or a specific effect on the |RDX degradation mechanisms. Thus, we examined the impact of TNT on RDX degradation by Rhodococcus strains YH1, T7, and YY1, which were isolated from an explosives-polluted environment. Although partly degraded, TNT did not support the growth of any of the strains when used as either sole carbon or sole nitrogen sources, or as carbon and nitrogen sources. The incubation of a mixture of TNT (25 mg/l) and RDX (20 mg/l) completely inhibited RDX degradation. The effect of TNT on the cytochrome P450, catalyzing RDX degradation, was tested in a resting cell experiment, proving that TNT inhibits XplA protein activity. A dose-response experiment showed that the IC50/trans values for YH1, T7, and YY1 were 7.272, 5.098, and 9.140 (mg/l of TNT), respectively, illustrating variable sensitivity to TNT among the strains. The expression of xplA was also strongly suppressed by TNT. Cells that were pre-grown with RDX (allowing xplA expression) and incubated with ammonium chloride, glucose, and TNT, completely transformed into their amino dinitrotoluene isomers and formed azoxy toluene isomers. The presence of oxygen-insensitive nitroreductase that enable reduction of the nitro group in the presence of O2 in the genomes of these strains suggests that they are responsible for TNT transformation in the cultures. The experimental results concluded that TNT has an adverse effect on RDX degradation by the examined strains. It inhibits RDX degradation due to the direct impact on cytochrome P450, xplA, or its expression. The tested strains can transform TNT independently of RDX. Thus, degradation of both compounds is possible if TNT concentrations are below their IC50 values.

Original languageEnglish
Article number120018
JournalEnvironmental Pollution
StatePublished - 15 Oct 2022


  • IC for TNT
  • RDX degradation
  • Rhodococcus strains
  • TNT toxicity
  • xplA expression

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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