Thousands of waste sites around the world contain mixtures of toxic chlorinated solvents, hydrocarbon solvents, and radionuclides. Because of the inherent danger and expense of cleaning up such wastes by physicochemical methods, other methods are being pursued for cleanup of those sites. One alternative is to engineer radiation-resistant microbes that degrade or transform such wastes to less hazardous mixtures. We describe the construction and characterization of recombinant Deinococcus radiodurans, the most radiation-resistant organism known, expressing toluene dioxygenase (TDO). Cloning of the tod genes (which encode the multicomponent TDO) into the chromosome of this bacterium imparted to the strain the ability to oxidize toluene, chlorobenzene, 3,4-dichloro-1-butene, and indole. The recombinant strain was capable of growth and functional synthesis of TDO in the highly irradiating environment (60 Gy/h) of a137Cs irradiator, where 5×108 cells/ml degraded 125 nmol/ml of chlorobenzene in 150 min. D. radiodurans strains were also tolerant to the solvent effects of toluene and trichloroethylene at levels exceeding those of many radioactive waste sites. These data support the prospective use of engineered D. radiodurans for bioremediation of mixed wastes containing both radionuclides and organic solvents.
- Toluene dioxygenase