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Evaluation of a Recombinant Escherichia coli Strain that Uses the Sarin Simulant Isopropylmethylphosphonic Acid (IMPA) as a Sole Carbon and Phosphate Source

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Technical Report,01 Mar 2015,31 Oct 2015

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Director, ECBC Springfield United States

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Chemical nerve agents consist of organophosphates that irreversibly inhibit the enzyme acetylcholinesterase within minutes, resulting in death by asphyxiation unless immediate medical support is provided. Currently, different methods for the destruction of large stockpiles of these agents are under evaluation. A method of destruction proposed by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory LBNL Berkeley, CA sought the development of a recombinant Escherichia coli strain that utilizes the nerve agent sarin as a sole carbon and phosphate source. To ascertain whether these recombinant strains degrade sarin, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency Arlington, VA requested that the U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center ECBC Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD evaluate the LBNL-developed recombinant strains for efficacy. In this study, only phosphate use by these recombinant strains was evaluated because carbon use by these strains is still undergoing optimization by LBNL. The E. coli strains produced by LBNL yielded little growth on the sarin simulant isopropylmethylphosphonic acid IMPA. However, ECBC-transformed strains, using plasmids, had successful growth when transformed into a different E. coli background, which correlated with IMPA degradation. Ultimately, the transformed E. coli strains, optimized at ECBC, were able to grow using IMPA as the phosphate source.

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