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Title: Environmental Consortium Containing Pseudomonas and Bacillus Species Synergistically Degrades Polyethylene Terephthalate Plastic
Plastics, such as polyethylene terephthalate (PET) from water bottles, are polluting our oceans, cities, and soils. While a number of Pseudomonas species have been described that degrade aliphatic polyesters, such as polyethylene (PE) and polyurethane (PUR), few from this genus that degrade the semiaromatic poly- mer PET have been reported. In this study, plastic-degrading bacteria were isolated from petroleum-polluted soils and screened for lipase activity that has been associ- ated with PET degradation. Strains and consortia of bacteria were grown in a liquid carbon-free basal medium (LCFBM) with PET as the sole carbon source. We moni- tored several key physical and chemical properties, including bacterial growth and modi!cation of the plastic surface, using scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and attenuated total re"ectance-Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (ATR-FTIR) spec- troscopy. We detected by-products of hydrolysis of PET using 1H-nuclear magnetic resonance (1H NMR) analysis, consistent with the ATR-FTIR data. The full consortium of !ve strains containing Pseudomonas and Bacillus species grew synergistically in the presence of PET and the cleavage product bis(2-hydroxyethyl) terephthalic acid (BHET) as sole sources of carbon. Secreted enzymes extracted from the full consor- tium were capable of fully converting BHET to the metabolically usable monomers terephthalic acid (TPA) and more » ethylene glycol. Draft genomes provided evidence for mixed enzymatic capabilities between the strains for metabolic degradation of TPA and ethylene glycol, the building blocks of PET polymers, indicating cooperation and ability to cross-feed in a limited nutrient environment with PET as the sole carbon source. The use of bacterial consortia for the biodegradation of PET may provide a partial solution to widespread planetary plastic accumulation. « less
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Katherine McMahon, University of
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National Science Foundation
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