Sabatier Principle for Rationalizing Enzymatic Hydrolysis of a Synthetic Polyester

Jenny Arnling Bååth, Kenneth Jensen, Kim Borch, Peter Westh*, Jeppe Kari*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Interfacial enzyme reactions are common in Nature and in industrial settings, including the enzymatic deconstruction of poly(ethylene terephthalate) (PET) waste. Kinetic descriptions of PET hydrolases are necessary for both comparative analyses, discussions of structure–function relations and rational optimization of technical processes. We investigated whether the Sabatier principle could be used for this purpose. Specifically, we compared the kinetics of two well-known PET hydrolases, leaf-branch compost cutinase (LCC) and a cutinase from the bacterium Thermobifida fusca (TfC), when adding different concentrations of the surfactant cetyltrimethylammonium bromide (CTAB). We found that CTAB consistently lowered the strength of enzyme–PET interactions, while its effect on enzymatic turnover was strongly biphasic. Thus, at gradually increasing CTAB concentrations, turnover was initially promoted and subsequently suppressed. This correlation with maximal turnover at an intermediate binding strength was in accordance with the Sabatier principle. One consequence of these results was that both enzymes had too strong intrinsic interaction with PET for optimal turnover, especially TfC, which showed a 20-fold improvement of kcat at the maximum. LCC on the other hand had an intrinsic substrate affinity closer to the Sabatier optimum, and the turnover rate was 5-fold improved at weakened substrate binding. Our results showed that the Sabatier principle may indeed rationalize enzymatic PET degradation and support process optimization. Finally, we suggest that future discovery efforts should consider enzymes with weakened substrate binding because strong adsorption seems to limit their catalytic performance.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJACS Au
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)1223-1231
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • PET hydrolase
  • Polyester degradation
  • Enzyme kinetics
  • Heterogeneous catalysis
  • Sabatier principle
  • Volcano curve
  • Enzyme affinity


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