Biochemistry of Microbial Polyvinyl Alcohol Degradation

Appl Microbiol Biotechnol. 2009 Aug;84(2):227-37. doi: 10.1007/s00253-009-2113-6. Epub 2009 Jul 10.


Effect of minor chemical structures such as 1,2-diol content, ethylene content, tacticity, a degree of polymerization, and a degree of saponification of the main chain on biodegradability of polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) is summarized. Most PVA-degraders are Gram-negative bacteria belonging to the Pseudomonads and Sphingomonads, but Gram-positive bacteria also have PVA-degrading abilities. Several examples show symbiotic degradation of PVA by different mechanisms. Penicillium sp. is the only reported eukaryotic degrader. A vinyl alcohol oligomer-utilizing fungus, Geotrichum fermentans WF9101, has also been reported. Lignolytic fungi have displayed non-specific degradation of PVA. Extensive published studies have established a two-step process for the biodegradation of PVA. Some bacteria excrete extracellular PVA oxidase to yield oxidized PVA, which is partly under spontaneous depolymerization and is further metabolized by the second step enzyme (hydrolase). On the other hand, PVA (whole and depolymerized to some extent) must be taken up into the periplasmic space of some Gram-negative bacteria, where PVA is oxidized by PVA dehydrogenase, coupled to a respiratory chain. The complete pva operon was identified in Sphingopyxis sp. 113P3. Anaerobic biodegradability of PVA has also been suggested.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Bacteria / metabolism
  • Biodegradation, Environmental
  • Fungi / metabolism
  • Genes, Bacterial
  • Hydroxides / metabolism
  • Ketones / metabolism
  • Metabolic Networks and Pathways / genetics
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Polyvinyl Alcohol / chemistry
  • Polyvinyl Alcohol / metabolism*


  • Hydroxides
  • Ketones
  • Polyvinyl Alcohol
  • hydroxide ion