Biosynthetic polyesters consisting of 2-hydroxyalkanoic acids: current challenges and unresolved questions

Ken'ichiro Matsumoto, Seiichi Taguchi
Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology 2013, 97 (18): 8011-21
2-Hydroxyalkanoates (2HAs) have become the new monomeric constituents of bacterial polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs). PHAs containing 2HA monomers, lactate (LA), glycolate (GL), and 2-hydroxybutyrate (2HB) can be synthesized by engineered microbes in which the broad substrate specificities of PHA synthase and propionyl-CoA transferase are critical factors for the incorporation of the monomers into the polymer chain. LA-based polymers, such as P[LA-co-3-hydroxybutyrate (3HB)], have the properties of pliability and stretchiness which are distinctly different from those of the rigid poly(lactic acid) (PLA) and P(3HB) homopolymers. This versatile platform is also applicable to the biosynthesis of GL- and 2HB-based polymers. In the case of the synthesis of 2HB-based polymers, the enantiospecificity of PHA synthase enabled the production of isotactic (R)-2HB-based polymers, including P[(R)-2HB], from racemic precursors of 2HB. P(2HB) is a pliable material, in contrast to PLA. Furthermore, to obtain a new 2HA-polymerizing PHA synthase, the class I PHA synthase from Ralstonia eutropha was engineered so as to achieve the first incorporation of LA units. The analysis of the polymer synthesized using this new LA-polymerizing PHA synthase unexpectedly focused a spotlight on the studies on block copolymer biosynthesis.

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