A Description of Pestalotiopsis Microspora

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Fungus eating plastic
Pestalotiopsis microspora
Pestalotiopsis microspora is a species of endophytic fungus capable of breaking down and digesting polyurethane.
The fungus basically eats the plastic and breaks it down into carbon.
An endophyte is an endosymbiont, often a bacterium or fungus, that lives within a plant for at least part of its life without causing apparent disease.
Researchers have found the first endophytic fungus that eats plastic, and can use it as its sole food source even in an oxygen-free environment.
The species Pestalotiopsis microspora is able to survive eating only polyurethane plastic. The species is also able to degrade plastic in an anaerobic environment, which bodes well for implications of placing the fungus in airless landfills.

The fungus, Pestalotiopsis microspora, was found by a student in 2008 in a particular type of guava plant. Other students followed up and discovered that not only does the fungus break down polyurethane, but it can do it in the depths of a landfill.

Pestalotiopsis microspora presents a massive bioremediation opportunity for landfills, where buried and surface plastics can be degraded naturally.
The fungus was discovered by a group of students and professors from Yale University. They were part of the undergraduate Rainforest Expedition and Laboratory program, where students searched for plants to culture the micro-organisms within their tissues.

The researchers observed that plastic degradation occurred beyond the size of the fungus, implying that the fungus secretes whatever chemical can biodegrade polyurethanes. This led the researchers to isolate the enzyme, which upon purification was able to degrade plastic on its own.

The PUR-degrading enzyme “is extracellular, secreted and diffusible,” said the Yale University researchers who made the discovery. The jungle fungus spits out an enzyme that diffuses to “a significant distance” from its body, expanding the potential range of...
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