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Plastic-eating mushrooms

posted Jul 26, 2012, 3:38 AM by Cesar Harada

Biodegradation of Polyester Polyurethane by Endophytic Fungi

  1. Jonathan R. Russell1,#
  2. Jeffrey Huang1,#
  3. Pria Anand1,#
  4. Kaury Kucera1,
  5. Amanda G. Sandoval1
  6. Kathleen W. Dantzler1
  7. DaShawn Hickman1,
  8. Justin Jee1
  9. Farrah M. Kimovec1
  10. David Koppstein1
  11. Daniel H. Marks1,
  12. Paul A. Mittermiller1
  13. Salvador Joel Núñez1
  14. Marina Santiago1,
  15. Maria A. Townes1
  16. Michael Vishnevetsky1
  17. Neely E. Williams1,
  18. Mario Percy Núñez Vargas2
  19. Lori-Ann Boulanger1
  20. Carol Bascom-Slack1and 
  21. Scott A. Strobel1,*

+Author Affiliations

  1. 1Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut 06520
  2. 2Universidad Nacional San Antõnio Abad del Cusco, Peru Escuela Post Grado, Facultad de Biologia, Andes Amazon Guianas Herbario Vargas (CUZ), Cusco, Peru


Bioremediation is an important approach to waste reduction that relies on biological processes to break down a variety of pollutants. This is made possible by the vast metabolic diversity of the microbial world. To explore this diversity for the breakdown of plastic, we screened several dozen endophytic fungi for their ability to degrade the synthetic polymer polyester polyurethane (PUR). Several organisms demonstrated the ability to efficiently degrade PUR in both solid and liquid suspensions. Particularly robust activity was observed among several isolates in the genus Pestalotiopsis, although it was not a universal feature of this genus. Two Pestalotiopsis microspora isolates were uniquely able to grow on PUR as the sole carbon source under both aerobic and anaerobic conditions. Molecular characterization of this activity suggests that a serine hydrolase is responsible for degradation of PUR. The broad distribution of activity observed and the unprecedented case of anaerobic growth using PUR as the sole carbon source suggest that endophytes are a promising source of biodiversity from which to screen for metabolic properties useful for bioremediation.


    • Received 7 March 2011.
    • Accepted 21 June 2011.
  • *Corresponding author. Mailing address: Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06520. Phone:(203) 432-9772. Fax: (203) 432-5767. E-mail:
  • # These authors contributed equally to this work.

  •  Published ahead of print on 15 July 2011.

  • Copyright © 2011, American Society for Microbiology. All Rights Reserved.