Research abstract

Letter abstract

Nature Biotechnology 24, 216 - 219 (2006)
Published online: 22 January 2006 | doi:10.1038/nbt1184

An explosive-degrading cytochrome P450 activity and its targeted application for the phytoremediation of RDX

Elizabeth L Rylott1, Rosamond G Jackson1, James Edwards1, Grant L Womack1, Helena MB Seth-Smith2, Deborah A Rathbone1, Stuart E Strand3 & Neil C Bruce1


The widespread presence in the environment of hexahydro-1,3,5-trinitro-1,3,5-triazine (RDX), one of the most widely used military explosives, has raised concern owing to its toxicity and recalcitrance to degradation. To investigate the potential of plants to remove RDX from contaminated soil and water, we engineered Arabidopsis thaliana to express a bacterial gene xplA encoding an RDX-degrading cytochrome P450 (ref. 1). We demonstrate that the P450 domain of XplA is fused to a flavodoxin redox partner and catalyzes the degradation of RDX in the absence of oxygen. Transgenic A. thaliana expressing xplA removed and detoxified RDX from liquid media. As a model system for RDX phytoremediation, A. thaliana expressing xplA was grown in RDX-contaminated soil and found to be resistant to RDX phytotoxicity, producing shoot and root biomasses greater than those of wild-type plants. Our work suggests that expression of xplA in landscape plants may provide a suitable remediation strategy for sites contaminated by this class of explosives.

  1. CNAP, Department of Biology, University of York, PO Box 373, York, YO10 5YW, UK.
  2. The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, Hinxton, Cambridgeshire CB10 1SA, UK.
  3. College of Forest Resources, Box 352100, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington 98195, USA.

Correspondence to: Neil C Bruce1 e-mail:


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