Polyhydroxyalkanoates: Much More than Biodegradable Plastics

Nancy I. López, M. Julia Pettinari, Pablo Ivan Nikel, Beatriz S. Méndez

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapterResearchpeer-review


Bacterial polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) are isotactic polymers that play a critical role in central metabolism, as they act as dynamic reservoirs of carbon and reducing equivalents. These polymers have a number of technical applications since they exhibit thermoplastic and elastomeric properties, making them attractive as a replacement of oil-derived materials. PHAs are accumulated under conditions of nutritional imbalance (usually an excess of carbon source with respect to a limiting nutrient, such as nitrogen or phosphorus). The cycle of PHA synthesis and degradation has been recognized as an important physiological feature when these biochemical pathways were originally described, yet its role in bacterial processes as diverse as global regulation and cell survival is just starting to be appreciated in full. In the present revision, the complex regulation of PHA synthesis and degradation at the transcriptional, translational, and metabolic levels are explored by analyzing examples in natural producer bacteria, such as Pseudomonas species, as well as in recombinant Escherichia coli strains. The ecological role of PHAs, together with the interrelations with other polymers and extracellular substances, is also discussed, along with their importance in cell survival, resistance to several types of environmental stress, and planktonic-versus-biofilm lifestyle. Finally, bioremediation and plant growth promotion are presented as examples of environmental applications in which PHA accumulation has successfully been exploited.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAdvances in Applied Microbiology
Number of pages34
Publication date2015
ISBN (Print)978-0-12-800259-9
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes
SeriesAdvances in Applied Microbiology

Bibliographical note

© 2015 Elsevier Inc.


  • Bacteria
  • Bacterial ecology
  • Central metabolism
  • Global regulation
  • Polyhydroxyalkanoates


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