Journal article Open Access

Synthesis and characterization of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) precursors and potential degradation products: Toxicity study and application in discovery of novel PETases

Milica Djapovic; Dusan Milivojevic; Tatjana Ilic-Tomic; Marija Ljesevic; Efstratios Nikolaivits; Evangelos Topakas; Veselin Maslak; Jasmina Nikodinovic-Runic

Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) is widely used material and as such became highly enriched in nature. It is generally considered inert and safe plastic, but due to the recent increased efforts to break-down PET using biotechnological approaches, we realized the scarcity of information about structural analysis of possible degradation products and their ecotoxicological assessment. Therefore, in this study, 11 compounds belonging to the group of PET precursors and possible degradation products have been comprehensively characterized. Seven of these compounds including 1-(2-hydroxyethyl)-4- methylterephthalate, ethylene glycol bis(methyl terephthalate), methyl bis(2-hydroxyethyl terephtahalate), 1,4-benzenedicarboxylic acid, 1,4-bis[2-[[4-(methoxycarbonyl)benzoyl]oxy]ethyl] ester and methyl tris(2-hydroxyethyl terephthalate) corresponding to mono-, 1.5-, di-, 2,5- and trimer of PET were synthetized and structurally characterized for the first time. In-silico druglikeness and physico-chemical properties of these compounds were predicted using variety of platforms. No antimicrobial properties were detected even at 1000 mg/mL. Ecotoxicological impact of the compounds against marine bacteria Allivibrio fischeri proved that the 6 out of 11 tested PET-associated compounds may be classified as harmful to aquatic microorganisms, with PET trimer being one of the most toxic. In comparison, most of the compounds were not toxic on human lung fibroblasts (MRC-5) at 200 mg/mL with inhibiting concentration (IC50) values of 30 mg/mL and 50 mg/mL determined for PET dimer and trimer. Only three of these compounds including PET monomer were toxic to nematode Caenorhabditis elegans at high concentration of 500 mg/mL. In terms of the applicative potential, PET dimer can be used as suitable substrate for the screening, identification and characterization of novel PET-depolymerizing enzymes.

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