Determination of key metabolites during biodegradation of hexahydro-1,3,5-trinitro-1,3,5-triazine with Rhodococcus sp. strain DN22

Appl Environ Microbiol. 2002 Jan;68(1):166-72. doi: 10.1128/AEM.68.1.166-172.2002.


Rhodococcus sp. strain DN22 can convert hexahydro-1,3,5-trinitro-1,3,5-triazine (RDX) to nitrite, but information on degradation products or the fate of carbon is not known. The present study describes aerobic biodegradation of RDX (175 microM) when used as an N source for strain DN22. RDX was converted to nitrite (NO(2)(-)) (30%), nitrous oxide (N(2)O) (3.2%), ammonia (10%), and formaldehyde (HCHO) (27%), which later converted to carbon dioxide. In experiments with ring-labeled [(15)N]-RDX, gas chromatographic/mass spectrophotometric (GC/MS) analysis revealed N(2)O with two molecular mass ions: one at 44 Da, corresponding to (14)N(14)NO, and the second at 45 Da, corresponding to (15)N(14)NO. The nonlabeled N(2)O could be formed only from -NO(2), whereas the (15)N-labeled one was presumed to originate from a nitramine group ((15)N-(14)NO(2)) in RDX. Liquid chromatographic (LC)-MS electrospray analyses indicated the formation of a dead end product with a deprotonated molecular mass ion [M-H] at 118 Da. High-resolution MS indicated a molecular formula of C(2)H(5)N(3)O(3). When the experiment was repeated with ring-labeled [(15)N]-RDX, the [M-H] appeared at 120 Da, indicating that two of the three N atoms in the metabolite originated from the ring in RDX. When [U-(14)C]-RDX was used in the experiment, 64% of the original radioactivity in RDX incorporated into the metabolite with a molecular weight (MW) of 119 (high-pressure LC/radioactivity) and 30% in (14)CO(2) (mineralization) after 4 days of incubation, suggesting that one of the carbon atoms in RDX was converted to CO(2) and the other two were incorporated in the ring cleavage product with an MW of 119. Based on the above stoichiometry, we propose a degradation pathway for RDX based on initial denitration followed by ring cleavage to formaldehyde and the dead end product with an MW of 119.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aerobiosis
  • Ammonia / metabolism
  • Culture Media, Conditioned / chemistry
  • Formaldehyde / metabolism
  • Nitrites / metabolism
  • Nitrous Oxide / metabolism
  • Rhodococcus / growth & development
  • Rhodococcus / metabolism*
  • Rodenticides / metabolism*
  • Triazines / metabolism*


  • Culture Media, Conditioned
  • Nitrites
  • Rodenticides
  • Triazines
  • Formaldehyde
  • Ammonia
  • Nitrous Oxide
  • cyclonite