Plastic pollution effects on our eco system is of a major concern, damaging our environment and harming plants, animals and humans. As plastic exists only a century, evolution could not catch up and natural biodegradation is still slow and inefficient. Meanwhile plastic has been massively accumulating in nature.
We, the BGU iGEM team want to solve this problem combing tools of synthetic and computational biology. Using these tools, we have taken two complementing routes to try and solve the problem of polyethylene -terephthalate (PET) degradation whereas our major aim is to completely degrade PET to CO2 while utilizing the energy stored in these chemical bonds in a biofuel cell anode made of a biofilm of engineered Pseudomonas putida (P. putida):
- Rational mutation design - Using PROSS algorithm: we aim to improve the catalytic activity of the enzyme LC-Cutinase which breaks down PET to terephthalate and ethylene glycol (its monomers).
- Genetic engineering of metabolic pathways – we will use a symbiotic approach where one bacteria, E. coli, will fully degrade one PET monomer (ethylene glycol) upon the initial breaking of the PET bonds to monomers and the second bacteria, P. putida, will fully degrade the second monomer (terephthalic acid), while utilizing it as a sole carbon source using a genetically engineered metabolic pathway inserted to it. Thus P. putida will depend on E. coli activity for nutrients while E. coli cannot survive without P. putida metabolizing terephthalate which is toxic.