Advanced bacterial polyhydroxyalkanoates: Towards a versatile and sustainable platform for unnatural tailor-made polyesters

Si Jae Park, Tae Wan Kim, Min Kyung Kim, Sang Yup Lee, Sung Chul Lim

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

135 Scopus citations


Polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) are biopolyesters that generally consist of 3-, 4-, 5-, and 6-hydroxycarboxylic acids, which are accumulated as carbon and energy storage materials in many bacteria in limited growth conditions with excess carbon sources. Due to the diverse substrate specificities of PHA synthases, the key enzymes for PHA biosynthesis, PHAs with different material properties have been synthesized by incorporating different monomer components with differing compositions. Also, engineering PHA synthases using in vitro-directed evolution and site-directed mutagenesis facilitates the synthesis of PHA copolymers with novel material properties by broadening the spectrum of monomers available for PHA biosynthesis. Based on the understanding of metabolism of PHA biosynthesis, recombinant bacteria have been engineered to produce different types of PHAs by expressing heterologous PHA biosynthesis genes, and by creating and enhancing the metabolic pathways to efficiently generate precursors for PHA monomers. Recently, the PHA biosynthesis system has been expanded to produce unnatural biopolyesters containing 2-hydroxyacid monomers such as glycolate, lactate, and 2-hydroxybutyrate by employing natural and engineered PHA synthases. Using this system, polylactic acid (PLA), one of the major commercially-available bioplastics, can be synthesized from renewable resources by direct fermentation of recombinant bacteria. In this review, we discuss recent advances in the development of the PHA biosynthesis system as a platform for tailor-made polyesters with novel material properties.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1196-1206
Number of pages11
JournalBiotechnology Advances
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Our work described in this review was supported by LG Chem and by the Intelligent Synthetic Biology Center through the Global Frontier Research Program of the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MEST). Further support by World Class University program ( R32-2008-000-10142-0 ) of MEST is appreciated. S.J.P. appreciates financial supports from KRICT and the R&D Program of MKE/KEIT ( 10033199 and 10032001 ). T.W.K was supported by the Marine and Extreme Genome Research Center program of Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs, Korea.


  • 2-hydroxyacid containing PHA
  • PHA
  • PHA synthase
  • PLA
  • PLA copolymer


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