Phytodetoxification of TNT by transgenic plants expressing a bacterial nitroreductase

N Hannink, S J Rosser, C E French, A Basran, J A H Murray, S Nicklin, N C Bruce

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

There is major international concern over the wide-scale contamination of soil and associated ground water by persistent explosives residues. 2,4,6-Trinitrotoluene (TNT) is one of the most recalcitrant and toxic of all the military explosives. The lack of affordable and effective cleanup technologies for explosives contamination requires the development of better processes. Significant effort has recently been directed toward the use of plants to extract and detoxify TNT. To explore the possibility of overcoming the high phytotoxic effects of TNT, we expressed bacterial nitroreductase in tobacco plants. Nitroreductase catalyzes the reduction of TNT to hydroxyaminodinitrotoluene (HADNT), which is subsequently reduced to aminodinitrotoluene derivatives (ADNTs). Transgenic plants expressing nitroreductase show a striking increase in ability to tolerate, take up, and detoxify TNT. Our work suggests that expression of nitroreductase (NR) in plants suitable for phytoremediation could facilitate the effective cleanup of sites contaminated with high levels of explosives.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1168-1172
Number of pages5
JournalNature Biotechnology
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2001


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