New research could help replace petrochemicals with biodegradable microbial products

Researchers are actively studying polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs), a family of natural polyesters produced by microorganisms that may represent biodegradable and biocompatible substitutes for petroleum-based plastics. For the past 30 years, investigators have been striving to determine the crystal structure of an important enzyme in the production of PHAs– called PHA synthase– but without success. Now a team publishing two articles in Biotechnology Journal reports success, while also elucidating mechanisms of the enzyme reaction involved in PHA production.

"With the PHA synthase structure now revealed, we are moving closer to tailor-made PHAs that could potentially replace environmentally unfriendly petroleum-based products," said Prof. Kyung-Jin Kim and Prof. Sang Yup Lee, senior authors of the articles.


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