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Potential of sediment bacterial communities from Manila Bay (Philippines) to degrade low-density polyethylene (LDPE)

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The persistence of plastics and its effects in different environments where they accumulate, particularly in coastal areas, is of serious concern. These plastics exhibit signs of degradation, possibly mediated by microorganisms. In this study, we investigated the potential of sediment microbial communities from Manila Bay, Philippines, which has a severe plastics problem, to degrade low-density polyethylene (LDPE). Plastics in selected sites were quantified and sediment samples from sites with the lowest and highest plastic accumulation were collected. These sediments were then introduced and incubated with LDPE in vitro for a period of 91 days. Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy detected the appearance of carbonyl and vinyl products on the plastic surface, indicating structural surface modifications attributed to polymer degradation. Communities attached to the plastics were profiled using high-throughput sequencing of the V4-V5 region of the 16S rRNA gene. Members of the phylum Proteobacteria dominated the plastic surface throughout the experiment. Several bacterial taxa associated with hydrocarbon degradation were also enriched, with some taxa positively correlating with the biodegradation indices, suggesting potential active roles in the partial biodegradation of plastics. Other taxa were also present, which might be consuming by-products or providing nourishment for other groups, indicating synergy in utilizing the plastic as the main carbon source and creation of a microenvironment within the plastics biofilm. This study showed that sediment microbes from Manila Bay may have naturally occurring microbial groups potentially capable of partially degrading plastics, supporting previous studies that the biodegradation potential for plastics is ubiquitously present in marine microbial assemblages.

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All data from this study were included in this article.


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We would like to acknowledge the Protected Area Management and Biodiversity Section of the Conservation and Development Division of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources—National Capital region for allowing us to conduct field work in LPPCHEA. As well as local government units of Brgy. Bucana in Ternate, Brgy. Bucana Malaki in Naic, Brgy. San Rafael III in Noveleta, and Brgy. Baseco in Manila for allowing us to conduct field work and sample collection. We would also like to acknowledge the Marine Research Center under the Marine Environmental Protection Command of the Philippine Coast Guard for providing assistance during one of our fieldworks. Members of the Microbial Oceanography Laboratory for helping during field works. And to Daniel John E. Purganan and Justine Marey S. Bitalac for helping us obtain CLS micrographs.


This study was funded by the PhD Incentive Award (Project No. 191906 PhDIA) from the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Development of the University of the Philippines (UP), and the Department of Science and Technology and National Research Council of the Philippines (DOST-NRCP) through the project entitled "Plastics in the marine environment, trophic system and aquaculture in the Philippines (PlasMics)".

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NCFG: conducted field surveys and sample collection, performed laboratory experiments, did data analysis, wrote the manuscript, and prepared the figures and tables. DFLO: reviewed and edited the manuscript, figures, and tables, as well as provided advice and guidance throughout the study. All authors conceptualized the project idea, designed the experiment and data analyses, and finalized the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Deo Florence L. Onda.

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The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.

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Communicated by Erko Stackebrandt.

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Gomez, N.C.F., Onda, D.F.L. Potential of sediment bacterial communities from Manila Bay (Philippines) to degrade low-density polyethylene (LDPE). Arch Microbiol 205, 38 (2023).

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