Project R-2383


BOF PhD: Genetically engineered endophytes and their potential to improve phytoremediation of toxic explosives- contaminated sites (Research)


The large-scale industrial production and usage of military explosives (e.g. TNT and RDX) has led to a worldwide introduction of these toxic compounds into the environment. Phytoremediation, a plant-bacteria based technology is a promising method for cleanup of contaminated soils and (ground)water. As explosives are very recalcitrant to biological degradation, I will exploit natural and genetically engineered plant-associated bacteria, capable of degrading explosives, in association with plants to reduce phytotoxicity and improve phytoremediation. The microbial diversity and explosives-degradation capacity of soil and plant-associated bacteria present at a Belgian military site will be explored. A selection of the most promising naturally occurring degrading plant-associated strains will be used for enrichments into grasses and poplars. Their potential to improve phytoremediation will be evaluated based upon degradation capacity and eventual reduction in evapotranspiration of original compounds and intermediates. Alternatively, these bacteria can be used along with degrading soil bacteria as donor-strains for genetic engineering, in which a plant-endophyte acquires a degradation pathway via natural gene transfer. The capacity of these transconjugants to improve phytoremediation will also be measured. Finally, a field-trial will be set-up. In conclusion, this research is important to increase insights into the plant-bacteria interactions in enhancing phytoremediation and it fits well within the phytoremediation research, performed at Hasselt University.

Period of project

01 October 2010 - 30 September 2014