- We describe TNT's inhibition of RDX and HMX anaerobic degradation in contaminated soil containing indigenous microbial populations. Biodegradation of RDX or HMX alone was markedly faster than their degradation in a mixture with TNT, implying biodegradation inhibition by the latter. The delay caused by the presence of TNT continued even after its disappearance and was linked to the presence of its intermediate, tetranitroazoxytoluene. PCR-DGGE analysis of cultures derived from the soil indicated a clear reduction in microbial biomass and diversity with increasing TNT concentration. At high-TNT concentrations (30 and 90 mg/L), only a single band, related to Clostridium nitrophenolicum, was observed after 3 days of incubation. We propose that the mechanism of TNT inhibition involves a cytotoxic effect on the RDX- and HMX-degrading microbial population. TNT inhibition in the top active soil can therefore initiate rapid transport of RDX and HMX to the less active subsurface and groundwater.