Decaying Hardwood Associated Fungi Showing Signatures of Polyethylene Degradation

Prameesha Perera, Anushi Suwanethya Deraniyagala, Maduri Piumi Sashikala Mahawaththagea, Harshini Herath, Chandima Shashikala Kumari Rajapakse, Priyanga Wijesinghe, Renuka Nilmini Attanayake


The involvement of wood decay fungi and the importance of their enzymes in polyethylene degradation is well documented. Therefore, decay-resistant hardwood associated fungi should be better degraders with their versatile enzymatic systems. In the current study, decaying hardwood associated fungi were isolated and their ability to degrade low-density polyethylene (LDPE) was assessed. Thirty-three isolates were identified by sequencing the internal transcribed spacer region of nuclear ribosomal DNA. Randomly selected isolates were tested for laccase producing abilities. Three species were selected to test their potentials in LDPE sheet degradation. Fungi were incubated in Czapek-Dox broth containing 20-micron LDPE sheets at room temperature for 60 days. The biodegradation signatures were assessed by analyzing the changes in structural characteristics of LDPE using Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR), scanning electron microscopy (SEM), percent reduction of tensile properties, and weight loss. FTIR analysis revealed changes in certain functional groups compared with the control, indicating chemical changes resulting from the treatment. LDPE sheets incubated with fungi showed cracks and holes under SEM analysis, percent reduction in tensile properties, and weight loss, which are the signatures of degradation. This study revealed that the hardwood decaying basidiomycetes, Phlebiopsis flavidoalba, Schizophyllum commune, and Phanerodontia chrysosporium have the potential for in vitro LDPE degradation.


Polyethylene; LDPE; Fungi; Biodegradation; Laccase

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