Bacteria have already been engineered to produce the common bioplastic polyhydroxyalkanoates, and in some cases can manufacture PHA up to 90% of its cellular weight. Detergents have traditionally been used to extract the PHA out of the producing bacteria. However, this can alter the bioplastic and negatively impact the overall sustainability footprint of the process.
Dr. Virginia Martínez at the Centre for Biological Research in Madrid found that Bdellovibrio bacteriovorus, a bacteria that feeds on other bacteria, can open up the cell wall of bioplastic-producing Pseudomonas putida. Her lab was also able to genetically modify the B. bacteriovorus in a way that prevented it from damaging the PHA. A larger-scale study is planned.
The work, entitled “Engineering a predatory bacterium as a proficient killer agent for intracellular bio-products recovery: The case of the polyhydroxyalkanoates”, was recently published in the journal Scientific Reports.