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Environ Sci Technol. 2009 Mar 15;43(6):2011-7.

Denitration of 2,4,6-trinitrotoluene in aqueous solutions using small-molecular-weight catalyst(s) secreted by Pseudomonas aeruginosa ESA-5.

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Unit of Bioengineering and Mass Spectrometry Unit, Université Catholique de Louvain, 1348 Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium.


The denitration of 2,4,6-trinitrotoluene (TNT) can produce mono- or dinitro aromatic compounds susceptible to microbial mineralization. In the present study, denitration of TNT and other nitro aromatic compounds was investigated with a solid-phase extract obtained from the culture supernatant of Pseudomonas aeruginosa ESA-5 grown on a chemically defined aerobic medium. When the C18 solid-phase extract containing extracellular catalysts (EC) was incubated with TNT and NAD(P)H, we observed a significant release of nitrite. The concentration of nitrite released in the reaction medium was strongly dependent on the concentration of NAD(P)H and EC. Denitration also occurred with two TNT-related molecules, 2,4,6-trinitrobenzaldehyde, and 2,4,6-trinitrobenzyl alcohol. The release of nitrite was coupled with the formation of two polar metabolites, and mass spectrometry analyses indicated that each of these compounds had lost two nitro groups from the trinitro aromatic parent molecule. During this process, the production of toxic reduced TNT metabolites was minimal. The incubation of EC with TNT, NAD(P)H, and specific scavengers of reactive oxygen species suggested the involvement of superoxide radicals (O2*-) and hydrogen peroxide in the denitration process. Results obtained in this study reveal for the first time that extracellular small-molecular-weight substance(s) of bacterial origin can serve as green catalyst(s) to initiate TNT denitration. In addition, this study gives clear evidence for the production of a TNT metabolite bearing a single nitro groupfollowing a denitration reaction with catalyst(s) of biotic origin.

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