Sunday, 15 July, 2018

Plastic-eating enzyme can help to fight pollution: scientists

Scientists accidentally engineer a plastic-eating enzyme Pollution solution? Protein eats plastic
Scott Davis | 17 April, 2018, 20:19

British researchers of the world have declared that have created a global problem with recycling plastic is that every year more and more pollute the planet.

The discovery came as a team of scientists from the University of Portsmouth in the United Kingdom and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in the USA examined an enzyme produced by the Japanese bacteria to find out more about its structure.

Professor McGeehan added: "The engineering process is much the same as for enzymes now being used in bio-washing detergents and in the manufacture of biofuels - the technology exists and it's well within the possibility that in the coming years we will see an industrially viable process to turn PET and potentially other substrates like PEF, PLA, and PBS, back into their original building blocks so that they can be sustainably recycled".

Although it is said to be highly recyclable, discarded PET persists for hundreds of years in the environment before it degrades.

The lead authors from the research team-NREL's Gregg Beckham, University of Portsmouth's John McGeehan, and Lee Woodcock from the University of South Florida-were attempting to understand how PETase evolved from likely working on natural substances to digesting synthetic materials when the serendipitous discovery was made.

The researchers say the PETase mutant enzyme could also be used to degrade polyethylene furandicarboxylate (PEF, ) which is a newer polymer that's being increasingly used to make bottles. By shining intense beams of X-rays on it, 10 billion times brighter than the sun, they were able to see individual atoms.

The creation of the enzyme occurred by chance when the team, led by Professor John Makhijani from the University of Portsmouth, forged bacterium, discovered in a landfill in Japan. To test their theory they then mutated the PETease to make it look even more like a cutinase.




"And now that we've shown this, it's time to apply the tools of protein engineering and evolution to continue to improve it".

"What we are hoping to do is use this enzyme to turn this plastic back into its original components, so we can literally recycle it back to plastic", said McGeehan.

Some companies that rely on PET have committed to do more. There is still a way to go before you could recycle large amounts of plastic with enzymes, and reducing the amount of plastic produced in the first place might, perhaps, be preferable.

Prof McGeehan said few could have predicted since plastics became popular in the 1960s that huge plastic waste patches would be found floating in oceans or washed up on once pristine beaches all over the world.

Scientists have created a mutant enzyme that breaks down plastic drinks bottles made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET), and they did it completely by accident.

"After just 96 hours you can see clearly via electron microscopy that the PETase is degrading PET", says NREL structural biologist Bryon Donohoe.

"What actually turned out was we improved the enzyme, which was a bit of a shock".

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