OxyMod research gives new opportunities for recirculating plastics

Lytic Polysaccharide Monooxygenases (LPMOs) are unique mono-copper enzymes evolved to act on the surfaces of insoluble crystalline polysaccharides, such as cellulose. Ever since their discovery in 2010, it has been speculated whether these unique enzymes could act on, or be engineered to act on, other surfaces, including plastics. 

Thanks to ten years of fundamental and applied research on LPMOs and recent insights generated in Digital Life’s OxyMod project, we now have a knowledge base that allows us to explore and evolve these enzymes for plastic recycling.

LPMOs acting on surfaces - An LPMO (green) bound to a polymeric surface (chitin; bluish). The blue (nitrogen), red (oxygen) and orange (copper) spheres indicate the catalytic center of the enzyme (picture by Åsmund K Røhr; NMBU).

In parallel there have been revolutionary developments in enzymatic degradation of plastics like PET, which, most interestingly, have shown that, just like in cellulose processing, substrate crystallinity is limiting the rate of enzymatic degradation. LPMOs can help to solve this issue.

Thus, LPMOs, and the results from OxyMod, are important for NMBU’s sustainability arena SmartPlast, which, among other things, addresses enzymatic tools for plastic recycling, and for Enzyclic, a newly funded cross-disciplinary NFR project that targets the plastic problem by simultaneously evolving plastics (done by Norner) and enzymes to recycle these. And this may be only the beginning! With the knowledge now at hand, NMBU researchers believe that LPMOs may be evolved to do important novel things, from catalyzing difficult-to-control and industrially important alkane oxidations, as in the ERC-Synergy project Cube, to breaking down various plastics, killing resilient pathogenic bacteria, and/or degrading other recalcitrant materials such as keratin.

A close up of the LPMO catalytic center (sticks and spheres) in an LPMO that is bound to a polymeric surface (chitin; brownish). The catalytic copper (orange) is coordinated by three nitrogen atoms (blue) and generates a reactive oxygen species (red) that oxidizes the polymer surface (picture by Åsmund K Røhr; NMBU).
Alternative picture for the left panel shown above. Same text, but other polymer colour and active site not shown (picture by Åsmund K Røhr; NMBU).
Alternative picture for the left panel shown above. Same text, but other polymer colour and active site not shown (picture by Åsmund K Røhr; NMBU).

Read more about the OxyMod-project here.

 

For more information, please contact:

Professor Vincent Eijsink

Fakultet for kjemi, bioteknologi og matvitenskap

Phone: +4767232463

Email: vincent.eijsink@nmbu.no

Published Jan. 12, 2022 9:58 AM - Last modified Jan. 12, 2022 10:07 AM