The Ministry of Science and ICT announced on January 30 that Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) biochemical engineering professor Lee Sang-yup and his research team developed a technologyfor producing aromatic polyesters from inedible biomass by E.coli fermentation.
The technique is the first one in the world for microbial fermentation-based aromatic polyester production. It is expected to contribute to eco-friendly plastic production based on plastic recycling. PET is one of the most well-known examples of aromatic polyesters.
The research team used systems metabolic engineering for analyzing the metabolic flux of E. coli strains by means of virtual cells. In doing so, the team newly identified a reaction of CoA-transferases, which are essential for polymer production, and succeeded in producing various types of aromatic polyesters.
Furthermore, the team worked with Kyungpook National University professor Kim Kyung-jin and his research team, identifying the structure of an enzyme superior to the others in terms of PET decomposition, finding out why the enzyme has such a high decomposition performance, and developing a mutant enzyme that has an increased PET decomposition activity. According to the teams, their research is highly meaningful with regard to sustainable plastic production in that it can contribute to microorganism-based and eco-friendly plastic recycling.
The results of the research projects have been published in the January 8 and 26 online editions of the Nature Communications journal, respectively.