Influence of Depolymerases and Lipases on the Degradation of Polyhydroxyalkanoates Determined in Langmuir Degradation Studies


Microbially produced polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) are polyesters that are degradable by naturally occurring enzymes. Albeit PHAs degrade slowly when implanted in animal models, their disintegration is faster compared to abiotic hydrolysis under simulated physiological environments. Ultrathin Langmuir‐Blodgett (LB) films are used as models for fast in vitro degradation testing, to predict enzymatically catalyzed hydrolysis of PHAs in vivo. The activity of mammalian enzymes secreted by pancreas and liver, potentially involved in biomaterials degradation, along with microbial hydrolases is tested toward LB‐films of two model PHAs, poly(3‐R‐hydroxybutyrate) (PHB) and poly[(3‐R‐hydroxyoctanoate)‐co‐(3‐R‐hydroxyhexanoate)] (PHOHHx). A specific PHA depolymerase from Streptomyces exfoliatus, used as a positive control, is shown to hydrolyze LB‐films of both polymers regardless of their side‐chain‐length and phase morphology. From amorphous PHB and PHOHHx, ≈80% is eroded in few hours, while mass loss for semicrystalline PHB is 25%. Surface potential and interfacial rheology measurements show that material dissolution is consistent with a random‐chain‐scission mechanism. Degradation‐induced crystallization of semicrystalline PHB LB‐films is also observed. Meanwhile, the surface and the mechanical properties of both LB‐films remain intact throughout the experiments with lipases and other microbial hydrolases, suggesting that non‐enzymatic hydrolysis could be the predominant factor for acceleration of PHAs degradation in vivo.
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