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Biosynthesis of Poly[(R)-3-hydroxyalkanoate] Copolymers with Controlled Repeating Unit Compositions and Physical Properties

Tappel, Ryan C., Kucharski, Jason M., Mastroianni, Jessica M., Stipanovic, Arthur J., Nomura, Christopher T.
Biomacromolecules 2012 v.13 no.9 pp. 2964-2972
Escherichia coli, biodegradability, biosynthesis, carbon, composite polymers, fatty acids, glass transition temperature, modulus of elasticity
As applications for biodegradable and biologically produced poly[(R)-3-hydroxyalkanoates] (PHAs) grow into more specialized areas, the need to precisely control the repeating unit composition and consequently the physical properties of these polymers has become essential. A previous study reported our development of Escherichia coli LSBJ in order to produce PHA polymers composed of single repeating units ranging from 4 to 12 carbon atoms. This investigation expands the scope of our effort toward controlling the repeating unit composition of a variety of PHA copolymers. The sizes for the repeating units within the copolymers were modulated by feeding specific ratios of fatty acids with defined carbon lengths to E. coli LSBJ, which resulted in defined mole ratios for the repeating units. Various physical properties of the copolymers (including the Young’s modulus, elongation to break, and glass-transition temperature) were shown to be strongly dependent upon the mole ratios of repeating units. This work demonstrates that copolymers of PHAs with repeating units from 4 to 12 carbons can be incorporated accurately to obtain any desired mole ratio within the PHA copolymers. Our methodology may thus be extended to generate tailor-made PHA copolymers with prescribed values for key sets of physical properties.