Quinone Moieties Link the Microbial Respiration of Natural Organic Matter to the Chemical Reduction of Diverse Nitroaromatic Compounds

Osmar Menezes, Kumru Kocaman, Stanley Wong, Erika E. Rios-Valenciana, Eliot J. Baker, Janet K. Hatt, Jianshu Zhao, Camila L. Madeira, Mark J. Krzmarzick, Jim C. Spain, Reyes Sierra-Alvarez, Konstantinos T. Konstantinidis, Jim A. Field

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Insensitive munitions compounds (IMCs) are emerging nitroaromatic contaminants developed by the military as safer-to-handle alternatives to conventional explosives. Biotransformation of nitroaromatics via microbial respiration has only been reported for a limited number of substrates. Important soil microorganisms can respire natural organic matter (NOM) by reducing its quinone moieties to hydroquinones. Thus, we investigated the NOM respiration combined with the abiotic reduction of nitroaromatics by the hydroquinones formed. First, we established nitroaromatic concentration ranges that were nontoxic to the quinone respiration. Then, an enrichment culture dominated by Geobacter anodireducens could indirectly reduce a broad array of nitroaromatics by first respiring NOM components or the NOM surrogate anthraquinone-2,6-disulfonate (AQDS). Without quinones, no nitroaromatic tested was reduced except for the IMC 3-nitro-1,2,4-triazol-5-one (NTO). Thus, the quinone respiration expanded the spectrum of nitroaromatics susceptible to transformation. The system functioned with very low quinone concentrations because NOM was recycled by the nitroaromatic reduction. A metatranscriptomic analysis demonstrated that the microorganisms obtained energy from quinone or NTO reduction since respiratory genes were upregulated when AQDS or NTO was the electron acceptor. The results indicated microbial NOM respiration sustained by the nitroaromatic-dependent cycling of quinones. This process can be applied as a nitroaromatic remediation strategy, provided that a quinone pool is available for microorganisms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9387-9397
Number of pages11
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number13
StatePublished - Jul 5 2022


  • Geobacter
  • aromatic amine
  • dissolved organic matter (DOM)
  • humic acid
  • hydroquinone
  • insensitive high explosive
  • metatranscriptomics
  • munitions compounds

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry


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