Explosives have become an extensive global pollutant over the last 100 years and there are mounting concerns over the toxicity of the military explosives RDX and TNT to biological systems. The potential for progressive accumulation of such compounds in soil, plants and groundwater is a significant concern at military sites.
We have been uncovering the molecular mechanisms behind detoxification processes for explosives in plants and are using this knowledge to successfully engineer transgenic plants able to remediate explosives contaminated land. An innovative aspect of our work has been the use of genetic engineering to combine the biodegradative capabilities of explosives-degrading bacteria with the high biomass, stability and detoxification systems inherent in plants. As a result of our advances in knowledge of the biodegradation of explosives, we have developed transgenic switchgrass lines that have been recently successfully tested for the remediation of RDX in field trials in the U.S.
Project activities and publications
Monodehydroascorbate reductase mediates TNT toxicity in plants published in Science
Professor Bruce's expertise is environmental biotechnology, biocatalysis, and biorefining.
Dr Liz Rylott
Research into the sustainable range management of RDX and TNT by phytoremediation with engineered plants and the molecular biology of nitroamine degradation in soils.