Poly(ethylene terephthalate) (PET) is used extensively worldwide in plastic products, and its accumulation in the environment has become a global concern. So far, degradation of PET has only been found in a few fungal species, so that biodegradation is not yet a viable remediation or recycling strategy. As part of the Hutton Seminar series, we are delighted to have Prof. Kohei Oda to talk about the newly discovered microorganisms that degrade PET, their enzymatic activities, and three dimensional structures and evolution of PETase, aiming to address the issues that hamper microbial and enzymatic PET degradation.
Prof. Oda is a Fellow of the Japan Society for Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Agrochemistry. His main contributions to this research field are discoveries of serine carboxyl peptidase family (sedolisins) [S53-family of serine peptidase], and the 6th family of peptidases, glutamic peptides G1 family (eqolisins). His ongoing interests are not only sedolisins and eqolisins, but also microbial hydrolytic enzymes, particularly those involved in degradation of polyethylene terephthalate (PET).
By screening natural microbial communities exposed to PET in the environment, we isolated a novel bacterium, Ideonella sakaiensis 201-F6, that is able to use PET as its major energy and carbon source. When grown on PET, this strain produces two enzymes capable of hydrolyzing PET and the reaction intermediate, mono(2-hydroxyethyl) terephtahalic acid (MHET). Both enzymes are required to enzymatically convert PET efficiently into its two environmentally benign monomers, terephthalic acid and ethylene glycol. Thus, we have developed the following three systems to degrade PET: 1) a microbial consortium system, 2) an Ideonella sakaiensis system, and 3) a system utilizing two novel enzymes
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