One of the greatest challenges of the Revoluzion project is to obtain enzymes that tolerate the high temperatures of the extrusion process to which plastics are subjected in their manufacture, in order to subsequently activate in their degradation after their useful life cycle. Among different strategies, and in collaboration with the group of Prof. Sánchez-Ruiz at the University of Granada, the Institute of Catalysis and Petrochemistry of the CSIC is working on the design of thermostable enzymes, combining techniques of directed evolution and ancestral resurrection through Directed Evolution.
In particular, ICP is applying various homologous recombination techniques: emulating the processes of animal breeding or plant breeding, in Revoluzion we go one step further by mixing genes coding for different enzymes (sometimes very different, with degrees of homology around 50%…). The ultimate goal is to obtain hybrid, chimeric enzymes with improved activities and thermostabilities resulting from a process of chimeragenesis guided by computational tools.
Leaving aside the undoubted biotechnological benefits of applying these tools to the design of plastic “predatory” enzymes, by establishing an analogy between animal breeding and Revoluzion’s “molecular breeding”, very striking conclusions have been reached:
In animal breeding we start from two individuals of the same species while in Revoluzion we are mixing dozens of genes, coming from very different species.
Animal breeding is slow, with months of gestation and a single generation of each cross; on the contrary, in Revoluzion molecular breeding is carried out in a few days of work in the laboratory and can reach several generations that compress the time scale of natural processes.
In short, the use of disruptive enzyme chimeragenesis processes is expected to help alleviate the planet’s pressing plastic pollution problem.