Polyethylene is highly hydrophobic and chemically inert, and microbes on the earth surface have not yet been fully evolved
to digest the artificially made plastics. Microbes biodegrading pristine polyethylene have never been isolated so far, and
thereby we employed an alkane, i.e., hexadecane, whose basic chemical structure is identical to that of polyethylene, as a model
compound for the investigation of the polyethylene biodegradation and the relevant genes.
A mesophilic bacterium being active for the PE biodegradation was isolated from a soil at a Yellow Sea beach of the Korea
peninsula where the serious crude oil contamination had taken place. The isolated strain was identified through the 16S rDNA
sequencing, and 1356 out of 1400 bp coincided with those of
The viability analyses of the
cloned recombinant cell demonstrated that the cells survived the 1
screening in the LB
plate containing ampicillin, and that the white colonies were detected after the 2nd blue/white screening.
In order to see whether the
sp. E4 is also active for the biotransformation of PE whose molecular weight
is well over that of triacontane, the activity of the
cloned recombinant cell was examined toward the PE biodegradation in the
compost under controlled conditions. The recipient cell,
BL21, was not active at all toward the LMWPE biodegradation.
In contrast, the
cloned recombinant cell was as active as
sp. for the mineralization of the PE. Therefore it was
concluded that alkB was well cloned to
BL21 and that the host cell acquired the activity for the mineralization of LMWPE.
Mal Nam Kim completed his Ph.D from Compiegne University, France. She has been a professor at Sangmyung University, Korea, since 1982. Hyun
Jeong Jeon is a Ph.D student at Sangmyung University
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