Project R-2688


FWO aspirant project: Genetically engineered endophytes and their potential to enhance phytoremediation of toxic explosives-contaminated sites (Research)


The large-scale 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 remediation technology is a promising method for cleanup of contaminated soil and (ground)waters. As explosives are very recalcitrant, 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 bacteria present at a military site will be explored. Plant-associated and bulk soil bacteria will be investigated for their capacity to degrade explosives. Naturally occurring degrading plant-associated strains will be enriched to evaluate their potential to improve phytoremediation. Alternatively, they can also be used along with degrading soil bacteria as donor-strains for genetic engineering, in which a specific plant-endophyte acquires a degradation pathway via natural gene transfer. Phytotoxicity and phytoremediation experiments using poplars and grasses, inoculated with the natural degrading plant-associated bacteria or the transconjugants, will be conducted. Finally, a field-trial will be setup. In conclusion, this research is important to increase insights into the plant-bacteria interactions in enhancing phytoremediation as this is becoming a worldwide accepted remediation strategy.

Period of project

01 October 2010 - 30 September 2014