Novel insights in dimethyl carbonate-based extraction of polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB)

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BioMed Central (BMC)
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Background: Plastic plays a crucial role in everyday life of human living, nevertheless it represents an undeniable source of land and water pollution. Polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB) is a bio-based and biodegradable polyester, which can be naturally produced by microorganisms capable of converting and accumulating carbon as intracellular granules. Hence, PHB-producing strains stand out as an alternative source to fossil-derived counterparts. However, the extraction strategy affects the recovery efficiency and the quality of PHB. In this study, PHB was produced by a genetically modified Escherichia coli strain and successively extracted using dimethyl carbonate (DMC) and ethanol as alternative solvent and polishing agent to chloroform and hexane. Eventually, a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) study was performed for evaluating the environmental and health impact of using DMC. Results: Extraction yield and purity of PHB obtained via DMC, were quantified, and compared with those obtained via chloroform-based extraction. PHB yield values from DMC-based extraction were similar to or higher than those achieved by using chloroform (≥ 67%). To optimize the performance of extraction via DMC, different experimental conditions were tested, varying the biomass state (dry or wet) and the mixing time, in presence or in absence of a paper filter. Among 60, 90, 120 min, the mid-value allowed to achieve high extraction yield, both for dry and wet biomass. Physical and molecular dependence on the biomass state and solvent/antisolvent choice was established. The comparative LCA analysis promoted the application of DMC/ethanol rather than chloroform/hexane, as the best choice in terms of health prevention. However, an elevated impact score was achieved by DMC in the environmentallike categories in contrast with a minor contribution by its counterpart. Conclusion: The multifaceted exploration of DMC-based PHB extraction herein reported extends the knowledge of the variables affecting PHB purification process. This work offers novel and valuable insights into PHB extraction process, including environmental aspects not discussed so far. The findings of our research question the DMC as a green solvent, though also the choice of the antisolvent can influence the impact on the examined categories.
Polyhydroxybutyrate, Extraction yield, Solvent-based extraction, Dimethyl carbonate, Multifactorial experiments, LCA analysis
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Biotechnology for Biofuels, (2021), v. 14:13.