Biotransformation of p-xylene into terephthalic acid by engineered Escherichia coli

Journal: Nature Communications

Published: 2017-05-31

DOI: 10.1038/ncomms15689

Affiliations: 4

Authors: 2

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Research Highlight

Gut bacteria helps plastics go green

© Yagi Studio/DigitalVision/Getty

© Yagi Studio/DigitalVision/Getty

A chemical used in plastics can be produced by engineered Escherichia coli — a microbe commonly found in the gut.

Terephtalic acid (TPA) is used to make plastics for products such as drink bottles and clothing fibres. However, its fabrication is energy intensive and potentially hazardous as it requires high temperatures and toxic chemicals. A team of researchers, from KAIST in South Korea, combined metabolic pathways from two different bacteria to make a synthetic strain of E.coli that can transform p-xylene (pX) — a raw material derived from petrol — into TPA via natural fermentation processes. The metabolically modified E. coli produced 13.3 grams of TPA from 8.8 grams of pX, matching the yield of commercial methods.

As pX can also be produced from dried plant matter, this technique could lead to the sustainable and green production of TPA.

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  1. Nature Communications 8, 15689 (2017). doi: 10.1038/ncomms15689
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Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), South Korea 1