Expression in grasses of multiple transgenes for degradation of munitions compounds on live fire training ranges

Long Zhang, Ryan Routsong, Quyen Nguyen, Elizabeth Lucy Rylott, Neil Charles Bruce, Stuart Strand

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The deposition of toxic munitions compounds, such as hexahydro-1, 3, 5-trinitro-1, 3, 5-triazine (RDX), on soils around targets in live-fire training ranges is an important source of groundwater contamination. Plants take up RDX but do not significantly degrade it. Reported here is the transformation of two perennial grass species, switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) and creeping bentgrass (Agrostis stolonifera), with the genes for degradation of RDX. These species possess a number of agronomic traits making them well equipped for the uptake and removal of RDX from root zone leachates. Transformation vectors were constructed with xplA and xplB, which confer the ability to degrade RDX, and nfsI, which encodes a nitroreductase for the detoxification of the co-contaminating explosive 2, 4, 6-trinitrotoluene (TNT). The vectors were transformed into the grass species using Agrobacterium tumefaciens infection. All transformed grass lines showing high transgene expression levels removed significantly more RDX from hydroponic solutions and retained significantly less RDX in their leaf tissues than wild-type plants. Soil columns planted with the best-performing switchgrass line were able to prevent leaching of RDX through a 0.5-m root zone. These plants represent a promising plant biotechnology to sustainably remove RDX from training range soil, thus preventing contamination of groundwater.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)624-633
Number of pages10
JournalPlant biotechnology journal
Issue number5
Early online date29 Dec 2016
Publication statusPublished - 20 Apr 2017

Bibliographical note

© 2016 The Authors. Plant Biotechnology Journal published by Society for Experimental Biology and The Association of Applied Biologists and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


  • RDX
  • TNT
  • monocot promoters
  • phytoremediation
  • stacked genes
  • switchgrass
  • Biodegradation, Environmental
  • Trinitrotoluene/pharmacology
  • Military Facilities
  • Phosphotransferases (Alcohol Group Acceptor)/genetics
  • Triazines/metabolism
  • NADH, NADPH Oxidoreductases/genetics
  • Panicum/drug effects
  • Agrostis/drug effects
  • Plants, Genetically Modified
  • Soil Pollutants/metabolism
  • Nitroreductases/genetics
  • Genetic Vectors

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