Towards industrialization of enzyme digestion of PET

John McGeehan, researcher at the University of Portsmouth, and his team have published an article on Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences about PETase enzyme engineering. PETase is an enzyme that catalyzes the conversion of polyethylene terephthalate (PET)–contained in plastic bottles–into mono(2-hydroxyethyl) terephthalic acid (MHET). The enzyme is secreted by the bacterium Ideonella sakaiensis 201-F6, discovered in a PET bottles recycling facility in Sakai, Japan, in 2016. The problem with I. sakaiensis is that digestion is too slow to be applied to an industrial context, therefore the team has determined the enzyme structure by XRD. This has allowed them to engineer the enzyme and make it capable of working at a temperature above 70°C, increasing its productivity. The next step is applying the modifications performed on PETase to I. sakaiensis, in order to industrialize the process.

(Source: PNAS)