Anaerobic biotransformation of RDX (hexahydro-1,3,5-trinitro-1,3,5-triazine) by aquifer bacteria using hydrogen as the sole electron donor

Water Res. 2002 May;36(10):2533-40. doi: 10.1016/s0043-1354(01)00480-8.


RDX (hexahydro-1,3,5-trinitro-1,3,5-triazine) is a nitramine explosive that has contaminated soil and groundwater at military installations throughout the US. Although anaerobic RDX metabolism has been reported, the process is not well understood, as past studies have typically involved complex, undefined media with multiple potential electron donors and acceptors. In this study, bacteria enriched from RDX-contaminated aquifer sediments consumed RDX in a defined, bicarbonate-buffered, anaerobic medium containing hydrogen as the sole electron donor and RDX as a potential electron acceptor and sole nitrogen source. RDX was not consumed in live controls that did not contain hydrogen. Transient formation of mononitroso- and dinitroso-RDX metabolites (hexahydro-1-nitroso-3,5-dinitro-1,3,5-triazine and hexahydro-1,3-dinitroso-5-nitro-1,3,5-triazine, respectively) was documented by liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry. However, studies with 14C-labeled RDX suggested that mineralization to carbon dioxide was negligible (<2%), which is consistent with cometabolic transformation. Several lines of evidence suggest that the RDX-transforming bacteria under study were homoacetogens, including correlations between RDX consumption and acetate production. Methanogens were unlikely to be responsible for RDX metabolism, as the presence of 2-bromoethanesulfonate, an inhibitor of methanogenesis, did not appear to affect RDX metabolism. The presence of nitrate reversibly halted RDX metabolism, whereas ammonium had no discernible effect, which implies that: (i) nitrate, which commonly occurs in RDX-contaminated groundwater, may inhibit in situ RDX metabolism, and (ii) although RDX may act as both a nitrogen source and cometabolic electron sink, the latter role predominates, as RDX reduction will proceed regardless of whether or not a more favorable nitrogen source is present.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria, Anaerobic / physiology*
  • Biotransformation
  • Hydrogen / chemistry*
  • Kinetics
  • Rodenticides / metabolism*
  • Soil Pollutants / metabolism*
  • Triazines / metabolism*
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / metabolism*


  • Rodenticides
  • Soil Pollutants
  • Triazines
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Hydrogen
  • cyclonite