Positive news

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19 février 2024

Newly discovered deep-sea enzyme breaks down PET plastic



Sources : https://phys.org/news/2023-09-newly-deep-sea-enzyme-pet-plastic.html



Crédit photo Communications Chemistry (2023).



Plastic pollution is increasingly affecting the health of coasts and oceans. One well-known problem is plastic bottles made from polyethylene terephthalate, or PET.



A new study involving scientists from Professor Ruth Schmitz-Streit's research group at Kiel University has shown for the first time, using microorganisms from the deep sea, that polymers such as PET are continuously degraded by an enzyme. Researchers from the University of Hamburg and the Heinrich-Heine-University Düsseldorf played a major role in the microbiological study.

The results fundamentally expand the knowledge of PET-degrading enzymes, the underlying mechanism and the evolutionary understanding of the diversity of putative PET-degrading enzymes throughout the global ocean. The research team published the results in the journal Communications Chemistry, where they discuss both biotechnological applications and the high relevance for biogeochemical processes in the ocean and on land.

The study highlights a special feature of the PET-degrading enzyme. "In our study, we have discovered a new genetic resource from deep-sea organisms belonging to the archaea," says Professor Ruth Schmitz-Streit, head of the Molecular Biology of Microorganisms working group at the Institute of General Microbiology (IfAM) and member of the research priority area Kiel Marine Science (KMS) at Kiel University. Until now, about 80 different PET-degrading enzymes were known, most of which were found in bacteria or fungi.

"Our data contribute to a better understanding of the ecological role of deep-sea archaea and the possible degradation of PET waste in the sea," says the microbiologist.



The plastic-eating PET 46 enzyme !


Using a metagenomic approach, the research team has identified and biochemically described the PET-degrading enzyme PET46 from a non-cultured deep-sea microorganism for the first time. This involved identifying the gene from a deep-sea sample based on similarities to known sequences, synthesizing the corresponding coding gene, producing the protein in the bacterium Escherichia coli and then studying it biochemically and structurally.

PET46 has many unusual properties and adds to the scaffold diversity of PET-active enzymes. Structurally, the enzyme differs significantly from those previously discovered. For example, it has the ability to degrade both very long-chain PET molecules, known as polymers, and short-chain PET molecules, known as oligomers, which means that degradation can be continuous.

Among other things, PET46 uses a completely different mechanism for substrate binding than previously known PET-degrading enzymes. The researchers describe an unusual 'lid' of 45 amino acids above the enzyme's active center as crucial for binding. In other PET enzymes, aromatic amino acids close to the active site are typical.

Promising biotechnology applications

At the , PET46 is very similar to another enzyme, ferulic acid esterase. This degrades the natural polymer lignin in by breaking down lignin polymers to release sugars from woody plant parts. Lignin and PET have many structural similarities, so the PET-degrading enzymes found in nature may be important for composting wood in forest soils, for example.


The biochemical properties of PET46 therefore make it a very interesting both for marine and terrestrial plastics and for biotechnology. Compared to the best-characterized PET-degrading enzymes from bacteria and composting plants, PET46 is more efficient at 70° Celsius than these reference enzymes at their respective optimum temperatures.


The research was carried out as part of the PLASTISEA project, coordinated by Professor Ute Hentschel Humeida of the GEOMAR Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research in Kiel. First author Dr. Jennifer Chow from the University of Hamburg and first author Dr. Pablo Pérez-Garcia, who works as a research assistant in Schmitz-Streit's group, contributed equally to the study.

More information: Pablo Perez-Garcia et al, An archaeal lid-containing feruloyl esterase degrades polyethylene terephthalate, Communications Chemistry (2023). DOI: 10.1038/s42004-023-00998-z

Journal information: Communications Chemistry

Provided by Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel


December 19, 2023



Source : www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment









President Biden Proposes Major Ban on Logging in Old-Growth National Forests




 Our attention was captured by an article from Anna Phillips published in The Washington Post on December 19 regarding the management of old-growth national forests, which informs us that on December 19, 2023, the Biden administration unveiled an ambitious plan to ban most logging in old-growth national forests,

providing crucial protection to the oldest trees in the United States. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack emphasized that this historic initiative involves the simultaneous revision of all 128 forest plans of the Forest Service, covering an expanse of 193 million acres of forests and grasslands. "We believe this will allow us to respond effectively and strategically to the biggest threats facing old growth" [...] "At the end of the day, this will protect not only the forests but also the culture and heritage linked to the forests."


This proposal aims to prevent the felling of old-growth trees for economic purposes, preserving carbon-rich forests precisely when they are crucial in combating climate change. The targeted trees, most of which are over 100 years old, store significant amounts of carbon and provide vital habitat for numerous wildlife species while exhibiting greater resilience to forest fires.


This initiative stems from a presidential decree signed a year and a half ago, directing the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management to inventory and protect mature and old-growth forests nationwide. Results indicate that over 32 million acres of these precious forests still exist on public lands, representing about 18% of all forested land managed by the two agencies.


While the proposal benefits the nearly 25 million acres of old growth supervised by the Forest Service, it leaves open the possibility of cuts under certain conditions. Chris French of the Forest Service: "In the Southeast, where the Forest Service is trying to restore longleaf pine forests [...] the agency could still cut down large and old Loblolly pines, the main tree grown for the timber industry."

Conservation groups have praised the proposal, emphasizing the urgent need to further protect old growth from the threats of climate change, forest fires, and logging. However, some of their wishes, such as permanent guarantees for mature trees, may take years to materialize.


In response, the timber industry has criticized the proposal, arguing that logging creates jobs in economically fragile regions and helps reduce fire hazards. Some environmental advocates also fear that the policy could be overturned by a future administration. The finalization of language regarding the protection of old growth is expected after an environmental impact statement, scheduled for early 2025.


Despite the criticisms, this initiative represents a major step in the protection of old-growth national forests, marking a significant shift in the Forest Service's approach over the past two decades. The outcome of this proposal will also impact the timber sales planned by the agency, raising questions about the future of forested lands containing mature and old-growth trees.



Anna Phillips's article is available here : https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/2023/12/19/old-growth-logging-forest-service/


Crédits photo : Vecstock on Freepik.


December 08, 2023







Questions about the safety and effectiveness of Beyfortus®



We have received to appear in the next issue of the excellent Belgian journal NEOSANTE an article by Pryska Ducœurjoly, which informs us that the French government has introduced a new injection, Beyfortus®, "strongly recommended" for infants to prevent bronchiolitis.

Developed by Sanofi and AstraZeneca, this monoclonal antibody-based treatment has received special designations, "innovative treatment" or "priority drug," opening the door to an accelerated evaluation to approve its effectiveness against respiratory syncytial virus bronchiolitis.

However, concerns have arisen about its actual safety and effectiveness.

Since September 15, 2023, Beyfortus® has been administered to infants aged three or four days.

Critics, including biologist Hélène Banoun, question the risk/benefit of Beyfortus® based on clinical trials.

Recent data suggest an unexplained increase in infant mortality since its deployment, raising additional concerns.

The Transparency Commission of the High Authority of Health has approved the injection for infants under six days old, despite the lack of safety data for this age group.

The article highlights potential conflicts of interest among experts and points to financial issues, suggesting that Beyfortus® might be favored for its convenient mode of administration rather than its actual effectiveness.

Comparisons with an existing treatment, Synagis®, reveal economic stakes, and the potentially high cost of Beyfortus® is emphasized.

Despite presenting Beyfortus® as a "preventive therapy" rather than a vaccine, doubts persist regarding transparency and trust in this new treatment.

To read the article, visit https://neosante.eu/beyfortus-alerte-rouge/