Biotransformation of hexahydro-1,3,5-trinitro-1,3,5-triazine (RDX) by a rabbit liver cytochrome P450: insight into the mechanism of RDX biodegradation by Rhodococcus sp. strain DN22

Appl Environ Microbiol. 2003 Mar;69(3):1347-51. doi: 10.1128/AEM.69.3.1347-1351.2003.


A unique metabolite with a molecular mass of 119 Da (C(2)H(5)N(3)O(3)) accumulated during biotransformation of hexahydro-1,3,5-trinitro-1,3,5-triazine (RDX) by Rhodococcus sp. strain DN22 (D. Fournier, A. Halasz, J. C. Spain, P. Fiurasek, and J. Hawari, Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 68:166-172, 2002). The structure of the molecule and the reactions that led to its synthesis were not known. In the present study, we produced and purified the unknown metabolite by biotransformation of RDX with Rhodococcus sp. strain DN22 and identified the molecule as 4-nitro-2,4-diazabutanal using nuclear magnetic resonance and elemental analyses. Furthermore, we tested the hypothesis that a cytochrome P450 enzyme was responsible for RDX biotransformation by strain DN22. A cytochrome P450 2B4 from rabbit liver catalyzed a very similar biotransformation of RDX to 4-nitro-2,4-diazabutanal. Both the cytochrome P450 2B4 and intact cells of Rhodococcus sp. strain DN22 catalyzed the release of two nitrite ions from each reacted RDX molecule. A comparative study of cytochrome P450 2B4 and Rhodococcus sp. strain DN22 revealed substantial similarities in the product distribution and inhibition by cytochrome P450 inhibitors. The experimental evidence led us to propose that cytochrome P450 2B4 can catalyze two single electron transfers to RDX, thereby causing double denitration, which leads to spontaneous hydrolytic ring cleavage and decomposition to produce 4-nitro-2,4-diazabutanal. Our results provide strong evidence that a cytochrome P450 enzyme is the key enzyme responsible for RDX biotransformation by Rhodococcus sp. strain DN22.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aerobiosis
  • Anaerobiosis
  • Animals
  • Biodegradation, Environmental
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System / metabolism*
  • Liver / enzymology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy
  • Rabbits
  • Rhodococcus / enzymology*
  • Rodenticides / metabolism
  • Triazines / metabolism*


  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Rodenticides
  • Triazines
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System
  • cyclonite