Plants disarm soil: engineering plants for the phytoremediation of explosives

Trends Biotechnol. 2009 Feb;27(2):73-81. doi: 10.1016/j.tibtech.2008.11.001. Epub 2008 Dec 26.


Explosives are toxic, recalcitrant to degradation and contaminate large areas of land and ground water. Remediation of these synthetic compounds is difficult and an enormous logistical task. Phytoremediation is a technique that offers an environmentally friendly, low-cost alternative to current remediation techniques; however, this approach is hindered by the low inherent metabolic abilities of plants towards these xenobiotic compounds and the phytotoxicity of these compounds. As a result of recent advances in our knowledge of the biochemistry underlying endogenous plant detoxification systems and the use of genetic engineering to combine bacterial explosives-detoxifying genes with the phytoremediatory benefits of plants, this technology is now poised for testing in the field and in a wider range of plants, such as poplar and perennial grasses.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Biodegradation, Environmental*
  • Explosive Agents / isolation & purification*
  • Explosive Agents / pharmacokinetics*
  • Genetic Enhancement / methods*
  • Plants, Genetically Modified / genetics
  • Plants, Genetically Modified / metabolism*
  • Soil Pollutants / isolation & purification*
  • Soil Pollutants / pharmacokinetics*


  • Explosive Agents
  • Soil Pollutants