Microbial Systems involved in TNT Biodegradation


Nitroaromatic compounds represent a major class of environmental
contaminants, and include explosives such as 2,4,6-trinitrotoluene
(TNT). While much of TNT production has ceased since the 1970s, TNT
contamination persists at former production sites since it crystalizes
on the soil surface and adsorbs to soil particles. The current
treatment methods for TNT contaminated soils and explosive materials
are largely limited to composting and incineration. Both methods
require excavation, transport and manipulation of contaminated
materials resulting in significant safety concerns and generation of
greenhouse gases. The ability to stimulate in situ degradation of TNT
in contaminated soils and groundwater via more natural processes will
result in a safer and more sustainable remedial option. However, most
biological remediation solutions have focused on anaerobic
degradation,which tend to be slow and cannot completely mineralize

Due to recent evidence that suggests that aerobic microbial
communities may be able to grow on and mineralize TNT, more studies on
aerobic biodegradation of TNT and related field applications are

Our research focus is taking a meta-omics approach to understand
biodegradation of TNT by microbial communities in the field. We are
applying next generation sequencing platforms, such as Illumina HiSeq
2500, to perform 16s microbial and ITS fungal community analyses,
whole shotgun metagenomics sequencing, and RNA-seq analyses.

Collaborators: Joseph B. Hughes and Gail L. Rosen