This opens up new possibilities in plastic recycling and decontamination
Poly(ethylene terephthalate) (PET) is a plastic commonly used in bottles and clothing, but its extensive and frequently only single-use, along with the fact that it is not biodegradable, has led to a significant environmental problem.
A team of scientists at Kyoto University isolated a bacterium named Ideonella sakaiensis, which can use PET as its major energy and carbon source. The report was published in the latest issue of Science magazine. Ideonella sakaiensis has proved to be an easily-grown microbe, as in the conducted experiment the PET left in a warm jar with the bacterial culture and some nutrients was gone just after a few weeks!
The scientists were able to identify the enzymes used to breakdown PET, and also the gene in the bacteria’s DNA responsible for these enzymes. Then, they manufactured more of these enzymes and demonstrated that PET could be broken down with the enzyme alone.
This false-color SEM (scanning electron microscopy) image shows Ideonella sakaiensis. Image credit: Shosuke Yoshida et al.
Source: The Conversation