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Critical Reviews in Microbiology
Vol. 38, No: 2, 2012, Pages: 152 - 67

Microbial remediation of explosive waste

Singh B, Kaur J, Singh K

Panjab University, Biotechnology, Chandigarh, India.


Explosives are synthesized globally mainly for military munitions. Nitrate esters, such as GTN and PETN, nitroaromatics like TNP and TNT and nitramines with RDX, HMX and CL20, are the main class of explosives used. Their use has resulted in severe contamination of environment and strategies are now being developed to clean these substances in an economical and eco-friendly manner. The incredible versatility inherited in microbes has rendered these explosives as a part of the biogeochemical cycle. Several microbes catalyze mineralization and/or nonspecific transformation of explosive waste either by aerobic or anaerobic processes. It is likely that ongoing genetic adaptation, with the recruitment of silent sequences into functional catabolic routes and evolution of substrate range by mutations in structural genes, will further enhance the catabolic potential of bacteria toward explosives and ultimately contribute to cleansing the environment of these toxic and recalcitrant chemicals. This review summarizes information on the biodegradation and biotransformation pathways of several important explosives. Isolation, characterization, utilization and manipulation of the major detoxifying enzymes and the molecular basis of degradation are also discussed. This may be useful in developing safer and economic microbiological methods for clean up of soil and water contaminated with such compounds. The necessity of further investigations concerning the microbial metabolism of these substances is also discussed.

Keywords:major detoxifying enzymes and the molecular basis of degradation,economic microbiological methods for clean up of soil and water contaminated with such compounds.


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