There is considerable interest in bioplastics nowadays. The technical problems associated with turning potato peel into sunglasses, or cane sugar into car bumpers, have already been solved. The current methods, however, are not very efficient: only a small percentage of the sugars can be converted into valuable products. By adapting the eating pattern of bacteria and subsequently training them, Meijnen has succeeded in converting sugars in processable materials, so that no bio-waste is wasted.
The problem is that the bacteria Meijnen was working with, Pseudomonas putida S12, can only digest glucose but not xylose or arabinose. As a result, a quarter of the eighty per cent remains unused. "A logical way of reducing the cost price of bioplastics is thus to 'teach' the bacteria to digest xylose and arabinose too."
Meijnen achieved this by introducing two genes from another bacterium (E. coli) which code for two enzymes that enable xylose to be converted in a two-stage process into a molecule that P. putida S12 can digest.Evolution
"After three months of this improvement process, the bacteria could quickly digest all the xylose present in the medium. And surprisingly enough, these trained bacteria could also digest arabinose, and were thus capable of dealing with the three principal sugars in bio-wastes." Meijnen also incorporated other genes, from the bacterium Caulobacter crescentus. This procedure also proved effective and efficient from the start.Blend
Meijnen tested the ability of these bacteria to produce pHB, a biochemical substance, from xylose and from other sources such as glucose and glycerol. He summarized his results as follows: "This strategy also proved successful, allowing us to make biochemical substances such as pHB from glucose, glycerol and xylose. In fact, the use of mixtures of glucose and xylose, or glycerol and xylose, gives better pHB production than the use of unmixed starting materials. This means that giving the bacteria pretreated bio-wastes as starting material stimulates them to make even more pHB."For further details, please contact:
Margot Custers, press officer NWO. Tel +31 70 3440741, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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