Biotechnology and Bioprocess Engineering 2023; 28(6): 977-989  
Polyethylene-biodegrading Microbes and Their Future Directions
Min-Ju Seo, Seung-Do Yun, Hyun-Woo Kim, and Soo-Jin Yeom
Min-Ju Seo, Hyun-Woo Kim, Soo-Jin Yeom*
School of Biological Sciences and Technology, Chonnam National University, Gwangju 61186, Korea
Tel: +82-62-530-1911; Fax: +82-62-530-2199
Seung-Do Yun, Hyun-Woo Kim, Soo-Jin Yeom
School of Biological Sciences and Biotechnology, Graduate School, Chonnam National University, Gwangju 61186, Korea
Min-Ju Seo and Seung-Do Yun contributed equally to this work.
Received: August 30, 2022; Revised: October 16, 2022; Accepted: November 13, 2022; Published online: December 31, 2023.
© The Korean Society for Biotechnology and Bioengineering. All rights reserved.

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Management of plastic waste is becoming a serious global environmental issue. Plastic pollution threatens a wide variety of ecosystems and brings damaging repercussions for many wildlife species. Polyethylene (PE) is a major petroleum-based plastic that has become indispensable in all aspects of modern life because of its many applications. PE is extremely resistant to natural biodegradation processes, resulting in its accumulation in the environment. Therefore, microorganism-mediated decomposition of PE is attracting attention as an ideal, sustainable method to reduce PE accumulation. In this review, we summarize capacities of various microbes (bacteria and fungi) to degrade PE, the physical products of PE degradation, and potential PE-degrading enzymes. Furthermore, we propose future directions for building PE-decomposition systems such as metabolons that use diverse enzymes to increase the activities and/or stabilities of potential PE degradable enzymes. Thus, this review article will contribute to developing PE-biodegradation systems using microbes and their biocatalysts.
Keywords: polyethylene, biodegradation, biocatalysis, multi-enzyme cascade reaction, scaffolds, synthetic biology

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