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J Biotechnol. 2007 Nov 1;132(3):264-72. Epub 2007 Apr 22.

Biotechnological production of (R)-3-hydroxybutyric acid monomer.

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National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, Tsukuba Central 6, Higashi, Tsukuba, Ibaraki 305-8566, Japan.


The escalating problems regarding the treatment of plastic waste materials have led to development of biodegradable plastics. At present, a number of aliphatic polyesters; such as poly[(R)-3-hydroxybutyrate] (PHB), poly(l-lactide), polycaplolactone, poly(ethylene succinate) and poly(butylene succinate) have been developed. Among these aliphatic polyesters, PHB is one of the most attractive since it can undergo biodegradation at various environmental conditions and has properties similar to polypropylene. Although much effort has been made to produce PHB and its copolyesters from renewable resources or through microbial processes, their commercialization and widespread application are still not economically attractive compared to conventional non-biodegradable plastic. Moreover, wide application of PHB and its copolyesters as biodegradable plastic have not only been limited by the cost of production but also by their stinky smell during industrial processing. However, (R)-3-hydroxybutyric acid, a monomer of PHB has wide industrial and medical applications. (R)-3-hydroxybutyric acid can also serve as chiral precursor for synthesis of pure biodegradable PHB and its copolyesters. A number of options are available for production of (R)-3-hydroxybutyric acid. This review discusses each of these options to assess the alternatives that exist for production of pure biodegradable PHB and its copolyesters with good properties.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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