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Journal of Polymers and the Environment
20, No. 1, 2012; Pages: 258 - 265

Microbial Enzymes Involved in Polyurethane Biodegradation: A Review

Araceli Loredo-Treviño, Gerardo Gutiérrez-Sánchez, Raúl Rodríguez-Herrera, Cristóbal N. Aguilar

Group of Bioprocesses, School of Chemistry, University of Coahuila, Saltillo, 25280, Mexico.


Plastics are present in a lot of aspects of everyday life. They are very versatile and resistant to microbial attack. Polyurethanes are used in several industries and are divided in polyester and polyether polyurethanes and there are different types among them. Despite their microbial resistance, they are susceptible to the attack of fungi and bacteria but the mechanism to elucidate its biodegradation are unknown. There are reports from bacteria and fungi that are capable of degrading polyurethane but the studies about the enzymes that attack the plastic are focused on bacterial enzymes only. The enzymes reported are of type esterase and protease mainly since these enzymes are very unspecific and can recognize some regions in the polyurethane molecule and hydrolyze it. Fungal enzymes have been studied prior the 1990s decade but recently, some authors report the use of filamentous fungi to degrade polyurethane and also report some characteristics of the enzymes involved in it. This review approaches polyurethane biodegradation by focusing on the enzymes reported to date.

Keywords: Plastics, Polyurethane biodegradation, Bacterial enzymes, Fungal enzymes



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