Evidence of anaerobic coupling reactions between reduced intermediates of 4-nitroanisole

Warren M. Kadoya, Reyes Sierra-Alvarez, Stanley Wong, Leif Abrell, Eugene A. Mash, Jim A. Field

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Nitroaromatic compounds are widely used in agricultural pesticides, pharmaceuticals, military explosives, and other applications. They enter the environment via manufacturing and municipal wastewater discharges and releases from agricultural and military operations. Because of their ubiquity and toxicity, they are considered an important class of environmental contaminants. Nitroaromatics are known to undergo reductive transformation to aromatic amines, and under aerobic conditions they are susceptible to coupling reactions which may lead to their irreversible incorporation into soil organic matter. However, there is also evidence of coupling reactions in the absence of oxygen between reduced intermediates of the insensitive munitions compound 2,4-dinitroanisole, leading to the formation of azo dimers. The formation of such products is a concern since they may be more toxic than the original nitroaromatic compounds. The objective of this research is to provide evidence of the anaerobic formation of azo coupling products. 4-Nitroanisole was used as a model compound and was spiked into incubations containing anaerobic granular sludge with H2 as the electron donor. Using liquid chromatography, UV–Vis spectroscopy, and mass spectrometry, the formation of the azo dimer 4,4′-dimethoxyazobenzene was confirmed. However, due to the instability of the azo bond under the reducing conditions of our incubations, the azo dimer did not accumulate. Consequently, 4-aminoanisole was the major product formed in our experiment. Other minor suspected coupling products were also detected in our incubations. The results provide clear evidence for the temporal formation of at least one azo dimer in the anaerobic reduction of a model nitroaromatic compound.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)372-380
Number of pages9
StatePublished - Mar 2018


  • 2,4-Dinitroanisole (DNAN)
  • Anaerobic biotransformation
  • Azobenzenes
  • Insensitive munitions compounds
  • Nitroaromatics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • General Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Pollution
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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