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Bioremediation of 2,4,6-Trinitrotoluene by Bacterial Nitroreductase Expressing Transgenic Aspen

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journal contribution
posted on 01.10.2008, 00:00 by Pieter van Dillewijn, José L. Couselo, Elena Corredoira, Antonio Delgado, Rolf-Michael Wittich, Antonio Ballester, Juan L. Ramos
Trees belonging to the genus Populus are often used for phytoremediation due to their deep root formation, fast growth and high transpiration rates. Here, we study the capacity of transgenic hybrid aspen (Populus tremula x tremuloides var. Etropole) which expresses the bacterial nitroreductase gene, pnrA, to tolerate and take-up greater amounts of the toxic and recalcitrant explosive, 2,4,6-trinitrotoluene (TNT) from contaminated waters and soil. Transgenic aspen tolerate up to 57 mg TNT/L in hydroponic media and more than 1000 mg TNT/kg soil, whereas the parental aspen could not endure in hydroponic culture with more than 11 mg TNT/L or soil with more than 500 mg TNT/kg. Likewise, the phytotoxicological limit for transgenic plants to a constant concentration of TNT was 20 mg TNT/L while wild-type plants only tolerated 10 mg TNT/L. Transgenic plants also showed improved uptake of TNT over wild-type plants when the original TNT concentration was above 35 mg TNT/L in liquid media or 750 mg TNT/kg in soil. Assays with 13C-labeled TNT show rapid adsorption of TNT to the root surface followed by a slower entrance rate into the plant. Most of the 13C-carbon from the labeled TNT taken up by the plant (>95%) remains in the root with little translocation to the stem. Altogether, transgenic aspen expressing pnrA are highly interesting for phytoremediation applications on contaminated soil and underground aquifers.