A British research team unveils a platform designed to accelerate the development of plastic-degrading enzymes.
Researchers at the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology (MIB) have unveiled the enzyme engineering platform in the journal Nature Catalysis. The platform is designed to rapidly improve the properties of plastic-degrading enzymes to make them more suitable for large-scale plastics recycling. The platform can reportedly evaluate the plastic degradation ability of about 1,000 enzyme variants per day. "In the future, we hope that our scalable platform will allow us to rapidly develop new and specific enzymes suitable for use in large-scale plastics recycling processes," said Dr. Elizabeth Bell, director of experimental work at MIB. "The accumulation of plastic in the environment is a major global challenge. For this reason, we wanted to use our enzyme evolution capabilities to improve the properties of plastic-degrading enzymes to help alleviate some of these problems." To test their platform, the research team developed a new enzyme, called HotPETase, based on an already known plastic-degrading enzyme through directed evolution. The enzyme, which is said to be thermostable and active at 70 degrees Celsius, would depolymerize semicrystalline PET faster than previously known enzymes. HotPETase also could selectively degrade the PET component of a laminated packaging material, allowing it to be used in mixed plastic waste streams, is said.