Isolation and characterization of RDX-degrading Rhodococcus species from a contaminated aquifer

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Groundwater contamination by the explosive hexahydro-1,3,5-trinitro-1,3,5-triazine (RDX) is a global problem. Israel's coastal aquifer was contaminated with RDX. This aquifer is mostly aerobic and we therefore sought aerobic bacteria that might be involved in natural attenuation of the compound in the aquifer. RDX-degrading bacteria were captured by passively sampling the indigenous bacteria onto sterile sediments placed within sampling boreholes. Aerobic RDX biodegradation potential was detected in the sediments sampled from different locations along the plume. RDX degradation with the native sampled consortium was accompanied by 4-nitro-2,4-diazabutanal formation. Two bacterial strains of the genus Rhodococcus were isolated from the sediments and identified as aerobic RDX degraders. The xplA gene encoding the cytochrome P450 enzyme was partially (~500 bp) sequenced from both isolates. The obtained DNA sequences had 99% identity with corresponding gene fragments of previously isolated RDX-degrading Rhodococcus strains. RDX degradation by both strains was prevented by 200 μM of the cytochrome P450 inhibitor metyrapone, suggesting that cytochrome P450 indeed mediates the initial step in RDX degradation. RDX biodegradation activity by the T7 isolate was inhibited in the presence of nitrate or ammonium concentrations above 1.6 and 5.5 mM, respectively (100 mg l-1) while the T9N isolate's activity was retarded only by ammonium concentrations above 5.5 mM. This study shows that bacteria from the genus Rhodococcus, potentially degrade RDX in the saturated zone as well, following the same aerobic degradation pathway defined for other Rhodococcus species. RDX-degrading activity by the Rhodococcus species isolate T9N may have important implications for the bioremediation of nitrate-rich RDX-contaminated aquifers.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)997-1005
Number of pages9
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2011


  • 4-nitro-2,4-diazabutanal
  • Cytochrome P450
  • Groundwater
  • RDX
  • Rhodococcus
  • xplA

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pollution
  • Bioengineering
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Microbiology
  • Environmental Chemistry


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