A general route to retooling hydrolytic enzymes toward plastic degradation

Susana M. Meza Huaman, Jake H. Nicholson, Alex P.S. Brogan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The accumulation of plastic waste in the environment is an ecological disaster that requires a plurality of approaches to tackle. There is therefore an ever-pressing need to close the loop on production of both conventional and bioderived plastics. In response, we propose a generalizable biocatalysis engineering strategy to enhance the use of enzymes to depolymerize a broad class of plastics. To demonstrate this approach, we have solubilized and stabilized the commonly available lipase B from Candida antarctica in ionic liquids. In doing so, we unlock the ability of the enzyme to hydrolytically depolymerize post-consumer poly(lactic acid) plastic, demonstrating full degradation within 24 h and full conversion to monomer within 40 h at 90°C. This facile and scalable modification strategy allows for elevated operation temperatures in combination with the superior solvent capabilities of ionic liquids, providing a blueprint for enhancing the capability of any hydrolytic enzyme for plastic recycling.
Original languageEnglish
Article number101783
JournalCell Reports Physical Science
Issue number2
Early online date29 Jan 2024
Publication statusPublished - 21 Feb 2024


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