Microbial degradation of polyurethane, polyester polyurethanes and polyether polyurethanes
- Cite this article as:
- Nakajima-Kambe, T., Shigeno-Akutsu, Y., Nomura, N. et al. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol (1999) 51: 134. doi:10.1007/s002530051373
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Polyurethane (PUR) is a polymer derived from the condensation of polyisocyanate and polyol and it is widely used as a base material in various industries. PUR, in particular, polyester PUR, is known to be vulnerable to microbial attack. Recently, environmental pollution by plastic wastes has become a serious issue and polyester PUR had attracted attention because of its biodegradability. There are many reports on the degradation of polyester PUR by microorganisms, especially by fungi. Microbial degradation of polyester PUR is thought to be mainly due to the hydrolysis of ester bonds by esterases. Recently, polyester-PUR-degrading enzymes have been purified and their characteristics reported. Among them, a solid-polyester-PUR-degrading enzyme (PUR esterase) derived from Comamonas acidovorans TB-35 had unique characteristics. This enzyme has a hydrophobic PUR-surface-binding domain and a catalytic domain, and the surface-binding domain was considered as being essential for PUR degradation. This hydrophobic surface-binding domain is also observed in other solid-polyester-degrading enzymes such as poly(hydroxyalkanoate) (PHA) depolymerases. There was no significant homology between the amino acid sequence of PUR esterase and that of PHA depolymerases, except in the hydrophobic surface-binding region. Thus, PUR esterase and PHA depolymerase are probably different in terms of their evolutionary origin and it is possible that PUR esterases come to be classified as a new solid-polyester-degrading enzyme family.