Characterization of partial anaerobic metabolic pathway for 2,4,6-trinitrotoluene degradation by a sulfate-reducing bacterial consortium

Can J Microbiol. 1996 Dec;42(12):1203-8. doi: 10.1139/m96-155.


The anaerobic degradative pathway for metabolism of 2,4,6-trinitrotoluene (TNT) by a consortium of Desulfovibrio spp. isolated from a creek sediment was studied. This consortium has the metabolic capability to degrade TNT to fatty acids. The growth of the consortium and the metabolism of TNT were greatly enhanced in the presence of an additional carbon source like pyruvate. The optimal concentration of pyruvate for the maximum rate of TNT degradation was 15-20 mM. Various intermediates of TNT metabolism were identified. The first step in the pathway was reduction of TNT to 4-amino-2,6-dinitrotoluene and 2-amino-4,6-dinitrotoluene, which were further reduced to 2,4-diamino,6-nitrotoluene. The next intermediate to appear in the culture medium was nitrobenzoic acid, followed by cyclohexanone, 2-methyl pentanoic acid, butyric acid, and acetic acid. A study using radiolabeled TNT showed that no CO2 was produced from TNT during metabolism. The mass balance of the radiolabeled study showed that 49.6% of the TNT was converted to acetic acid, 28% was assimilated into biomass as trichloroacetic acid precipitable materials, and the rest was distributed as various TNT intermediates. Most Desulfovibrio spp. are incomplete oxidizers that are unable to carry out the terminal oxidation of organic substrates. The major end product of TNT metabolism was acetic acid. The bacteria grew on all the TNT intermediates tested as sole source of carbon, except on acetic acid, confirming that the Desulfovibrio spp. have the enzymes necessary for complete degradation of TNT to acetate.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acetic Acid / metabolism
  • Anaerobiosis
  • Biodegradation, Environmental
  • Desulfovibrio / growth & development
  • Desulfovibrio / metabolism*
  • Fatty Acids / biosynthesis
  • Mass Spectrometry
  • Metabolism
  • Nitrogen / metabolism
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Sulfates / metabolism*
  • Trinitrotoluene / metabolism*


  • Fatty Acids
  • Sulfates
  • Trinitrotoluene
  • Nitrogen
  • Acetic Acid