Biodegradation of explosives
Funded by the Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP) of the US Department of Defense in collaboration with the University of Washington
Professor Neil Bruce (CNAP), Dr Gideon Grogan (YSBL, Department of Chemistry) and Professor Stuart Strand (University of Washington)
Major international concern is growing over the wide-scale contamination of soil and ground water with toxic high explosives. In particular, the explosives hexahydro-1,3,5-trinitro-1,3,5-triazine (RDX) and trinitrotoluene (TNT) exist as serious environmental pollutants as a result of the manufacture, deployment and decommissioning of weapons. We have recently isolated a significant number of strains of bacteria from explosives-contaminated land capable of utilising RDX as a sole nitrogen source for growth. From these strains, we have identified a novel cytochrome P450 (XplA) and its partnering reductase (XplB), responsible for the degradation of RDX in Rhodococcus rhodochrous (strain 11Y). XplA is of unique structural organization in that it was found to possess a flavodoxin domain fused to the N-terminus of the P450 domain. The structural features of XplA and its potential use for environmental clean-up are currently being explored.
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CNAP, Department of Biology, University of York, Wentworth Way, York YO10 5DD, UK