Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology

, Volume 102, Issue 6, pp 2693–2707 | Cite as

Inactivation of an intracellular poly-3-hydroxybutyrate depolymerase of Azotobacter vinelandii allows to obtain a polymer of uniform high molecular mass

  • Libertad Adaya
  • Modesto Millán
  • Carlos Peña
  • Dieter Jendrossek
  • Guadalupe Espín
  • Raunel Tinoco-Valencia
  • Josefina Guzmán
  • Daniel Pfeiffer
  • Daniel Segura
Biotechnologically relevant enzymes and proteins


A novel poly-3-hydroxybutyrate depolymerase was identified in Azotobacter vinelandii. This enzyme, now designated PhbZ1, is associated to the poly-3-hydroxybutyrate (PHB) granules and when expressed in Escherichia coli, it showed in vitro PHB depolymerizing activity on native or artificial PHB granules, but not on crystalline PHB. Native PHB (nPHB) granules isolated from a PhbZ1 mutant had a diminished endogenous in vitro hydrolysis of the polyester, when compared to the granules of the wild-type strain. This in vitro degradation was also tested in the presence of free coenzyme A. Thiolytic degradation of the polymer was observed in the nPHB granules of the wild type, resulting in the formation of 3-hydroxybutyryl-CoA, but was absent in the granules of the mutant. It was previously reported that cultures of A. vinelandii OP grown in a bioreactor showed a decrease in the weight average molecular weight (Mw) of the PHB after 20 h of culture, with an increase in the fraction of polymers of lower molecular weight. This decrease was correlated with an increase in the PHB depolymerase activity during the culture. Here, we show that in the phbZ1 mutant, neither the decrease in the Mw nor the appearance of a low molecular weight polymers occurred. In addition, a higher PHB accumulation was observed in the cultures of the phbZ1 mutant. These results suggest that PhbZ1 has a role in the degradation of PHB in cultures in bioreactors and its inactivation allows the production of a polymer of a uniform high molecular weight.


Polyhydroxybutyrate Depolymerase Bioplastic Molecular mass 



The authors are grateful to Soledad Moreno and Ramón de Anda for the technical assistance and Déborah Yanajara-Parra for her assistance in the purification of the PHB granules. L. Adaya is a doctoral student from Programa de Doctorado en Ciencias Biomédicas, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, and was supported by a scholarship from Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología (México). This work was supported by grants 255158 and 238535 from Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología and IT200415 form Programa de Apoyo a Proyectos de Investigación e Innovación Tecnológica (PAPIIT) DGAPA-UNAM, as well as by a grant of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft to D. J.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical statement

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.

Supplementary material

253_2018_8806_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (136 kb)
ESM 1 (PDF 135 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Libertad Adaya
    • 1
  • Modesto Millán
    • 2
  • Carlos Peña
    • 2
  • Dieter Jendrossek
    • 3
  • Guadalupe Espín
    • 1
  • Raunel Tinoco-Valencia
    • 2
  • Josefina Guzmán
    • 1
  • Daniel Pfeiffer
    • 4
  • Daniel Segura
    • 1
  1. 1.Departamento de Microbiología Molecular, Instituto de BiotecnologíaUniversidad Nacional Autónoma de MéxicoCuernavacaMéxico
  2. 2.Departamento de Ingeniería Celular y Biocatálisis, Instituto de BiotecnologíaUniversidad Nacional Autónoma de MéxicoCuernavacaMéxico
  3. 3.Institute of MicrobiologyUniversity StuttgartStuttgartGermany
  4. 4.Department of MicrobiologyUniversity of BayreuthBayreuthGermany

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