[Progress on biodegradation of polylactic acid—a review]

Fan Li, Sha Wang, Weifeng Liu, Guanjun Chen
Wei Sheng Wu Xue Bao, Acta Microbiologica Sinica 2008, 48 (2): 262-8
Polylactic acid is a high molecular-weight polyester made from renewable resources such as corn or starch. It is a promising biodegradable plastic due to its mechanical properties, biocompatibility and biodegradability. To achieve natural recycling of polylactic acid, relative microorganisms and the underlying mechanisms in the biodegradation has become an important issue in biodegradable materials. Up to date, most isolated microbes capable of degrading polylactic acid belong to actinomycetes. Proteases secreted by these microorganisms are responsible for the degradation. However, subtle differences exist between these polylactic acid degrading enzymes and typical proteases with respect to substrate binding and catalysis. Amino acids relative to catalysis are postulated to be highly plastic allowing their catalytic hydrolysis of polylactic acid. In this paper we reviewed current studies on biodegradation of polylactic acid concerning its microbial, enzymatic reactions and the possible mechanisms. We also discussed the probability of biologically recycling PLA by applying highly efficient strains and enzymes.

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