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Plastic Eating Enzymes: A Step Towards Sustainability

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The large-scale usage of petro-chemical-based plastics has proved to be a significant source of environmental pollution due to their non-biodegradable nature. Microbes-based enzymes such as esterases, cutinases, and lipases have shown the ability to degrade synthetic plastic. However, the degradation of plastics by enzymes is primarily limited by the unavailability of a robust enzymatic system, i.e., low activity and stability towards plastic degradation. Recently, the machine learning strategy involved structure-based and deep neural networks show desirable potential to generate functional, active stable, and tolerant polyethylene terephthalate (PET) degrading enzyme (FAST-PETase). FAST-PETase showed the highest PET hydrolytic activity among known enzymes or their variants and degraded broad ranges of plastics. The development of a closed-loop circular economy-based system of plastic degradation to monomers by FAST-PETase followed by the re-polymerization of monomers into clean plastics can be a more sustainable approach. As an alternative to synthetic plastics, diverse microbes can produce polyhydroxyalkanoates, and their degradation by microbes has been well-established. This article discusses recent updates in the enzymatic degradation of plastics for sustainable development.

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Basic Science Research Program supported this study through the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) funded by the Ministry of Science, ICT & Future Planning (NRF-2019R1C1C11009766). This work was supported by the KU Research Professor Program of Konkuk University.

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Correspondence to Jung-Kul Lee.

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Patel, S.K.S., Lee, JK. Plastic Eating Enzymes: A Step Towards Sustainability. Indian J Microbiol 62, 658–661 (2022).

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