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All About iGEM

International Genetically Engineered Machine

iGEM is one of the most prestigious of international genetic competition for students of optimizing innovation and creativity for a better life. This time, Indonesia is participating by the team which is come from Bogor Agricultural University. 10 undergraduate students and 2 faculty advisor (link to profile team) have a passion in environmental molecular science. BAU-Indonesia is a team that has a purpose to degrade plastic on the ground such as : PET, PE, PP and PVC. Indonesia is still active in the use of these kinds of plastic but the degradation itself is still not effective and efficient. The existence of plastic waste in the river will spread to the sea or ocean. If it's not being eliminated or degraded, Earth would be fulfilled with a pile of plastic either at terrestrial or water that will disturb the living system. It can kill living organism which is started from microbe, plant, animal, and human. Based on those reasons, BAU-Indonesia team will make the solution to get the plastic degradation enzyme from bacteria, especially the enzyme to degrade PE and PET.

Project Background


Polyethylene is a synthetic polymer that made of long chain monomers of ethylene. It is a thermoplastic commodity mostly used for packaging. About 140 million tonnes of synthetic polymers are produced worldwide annually with their utility escalating at a rate of 12% per annum (Shimao 2001). The most widely used plastics used in packaging are polyethylene (LDPE, MDPE, HDPE and LLDPE), polypropylene (PP), polystyrene (PS), polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polyurethane (PUR), poly(ethylene terephthalate) (PET), poly (butylene terephthalate) (PBT). Polyethylene are resistant against microbial attack, since during their short time of presence in nature evolution could not design new enzyme structures capable of degrading synthetic polymers (Mueller 2006). In order to manage the utility of these polymers in the nature, there are two ways: one is to exploit the microorganisms in degrading polyethylene and the other is to develop artificial polymers susceptible to biodegradation. Subsequently, to gain large-scale acceptance these man-made biodegradable polyethylene should retain all the essential properties of utility by the consumer and when discarded in the environment should demonstrate their degradability more rapidly than the conventional ones (El-Shafei et al. 1998).
Nanda et al. (2010) have reported natural and synthetic PE degradation activity of Pseudomonas sp. that isolated from sewage sludge and household garbage dump. The degradation activity from each Pseudomonas sp. isolates were different between natural and synthetic PE 31,4%-46,2% and 29,1% - 16,3% respectively in loss weight. Some kind of enzymes had a PE degradation activity reported by Guebitz and Cavaco-Paulo (2008) cutinase. Cutinase has recently received much attention because of its potential application for surface modification and degradation of aliphatic and aromatic polyesters, especially polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which is a synthetic aromatic polyester composed of terephthalic acid (TPA) and ethylene glycol) ; however, the number of cutinases, which have been studied regarding PET modification, is still limited, and this limitation may result in the delay of the research toward the practical use of cutinases. Bogor Agricultural University (IPB) iGEM team project is making a synthetic bacteria that can degrade plastic ecspecially PE/PET with a novel degrading enzymes.


El-Shafei HA, El-Nasser NHA, Kansoh AL, Ali AM .1998. Biodegradation of disposable polyethylene by fungi and Streptomyces species. Polym. Degrad. Stab. 62: 361 - 365.

Guebitz GM, Cavaco-Paulo A. 2008. Enzymes go big: surface hydrolysis and functionalization of synthetic polymers. Trends Biotechnol. 26:32–38.

Shimao, M (2001). Biodegradation of plastics. Curr. Opin. Biotechnol. 12: 242 - 247.

Mueller RJ. 2006. Biological degradation of synthetic polyesters—enzymes as potential catalysts for polyester recycling. Proc Biochem 41:2124–8.

Nanda S, Snigdha S, Abraham J.2010. Studies on the biodegradation of natural and synthetic polyethylene by Pseudomonas spp. J. Appl. Sci. Environ. Manage. Vol. 14 (2) 57 – 60.


==Plastic Terminator==

Indonesia is known as the 4th highest population densities around the world. Nowadays, 1.5 million tons/year from human activity which is used in the world is PET. PET is a thermoplastic polymer resin, not easily degraded naturally. Based on this background, the BAU-Indonesia team designs a plasmid which is contains of encoding cutinase degrading enzymes of producing PET.
The early stage of this project was done by the preservation of plastic waste bacteria from landfills at Galuga. The bacteria were cultured in liquid media which is contained yeast extract powder and PET enrichment. The result of this preservation will be followed by the isolation of DNA and PCR with Cutinase F primer'ACGCGCCGGGCGTCACCGAGCA'3 and R 5'ACGCGTCGTGCCGTCAGGGCCA'3. Cutinase gen that were amplified will be inserted to plasmid pSB1C3. The recombinant plasmid which contained the cutinase gene will be introduced into E. coli. Finally it will be used as PET biodegradator product.

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