Many enteric bacteria express a type I oxygen-insensitive nitroreductase, which reduces nitro groups on many different nitroaromatic compounds under aerobic conditions. Enzymatic reduction of nitramines was also documented in enteric bacteria under anaerobic conditions. This study indicates that nitramine reduction in enteric bacteria is carried out by the type I, or oxygen-insensitive nitroreductase, rather than a type II enzyme. The enteric bacterium Morganella morganii strain B2 with documented hexahydro-1,3,5-trinitro-1,3,5-triazine (RDX) nitroreductase activity, and Enterobacter cloacae strain 96-3 with documented 2,4,6-trinitrotoluene (TNT) nitroreductase activity, were used here to show that the explosives TNT and RDX were both reduced by a type I nitroreductase. Morganella morganii and E. cloacae exhibited RDX and TNT nitroreductase activities in whole cell assays. Type I nitroreductase, purified from E. cloacae, oxidized NADPH with TNT or RDX as substrate. When expression of the E. cloacae type I nitroreductase gene was induced in an Escherichia coli strain carrying a plasmid, a simultaneous increase in TNT and RDX nitroreductase activities was observed. In addition, neither TNT nor RDX nitroreductase activity was detected in nitrofurazone-resistant mutants of M. morganii. We conclude that a type I nitroreductase present in these two enteric bacteria was responsible for the nitroreduction of both types of explosive.



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