Degradation and metabolism of synthetic plastics and associated products by Pseudomonas sp.: capabilities and challenges

J Appl Microbiol. 2017 Sep;123(3):582-593. doi: 10.1111/jam.13472. Epub 2017 May 31.


Synthetic plastics, which are widely present in materials of everyday use, are ubiquitous and slowly-degrading polymers in environmental wastes. Of special interest are the capabilities of microorganisms to accelerate their degradation. Members of the metabolically diverse genus Pseudomonas are of particular interest due to their capabilities to degrade and metabolize synthetic plastics. Pseudomonas species isolated from environmental matrices have been identified to degrade polyethylene, polypropylene, polyvinyl chloride, polystyrene, polyurethane, polyethylene terephthalate, polyethylene succinate, polyethylene glycol and polyvinyl alcohol at varying degrees of efficiency. Here, we present a review of the current knowledge on the factors that control the ability of Pseudomonas sp. to process these different plastic polymers and their by-products. These factors include cell surface attachment within biofilms, catalytic enzymes involved in oxidation or hydrolysis of the plastic polymer, metabolic pathways responsible for uptake and assimilation of plastic fragments and chemical factors that are advantageous or inhibitory to the biodegradation process. We also highlight future research directions required in order to harness fully the capabilities of Pseudomonas sp. in bioremediation strategies towards eliminating plastic wastes.

Keywords: Pseudomonads; biodegradation; biofilm; bioremediation; environmental.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biodegradation, Environmental
  • Plastics / chemical synthesis
  • Plastics / metabolism*
  • Polyethylenes / metabolism
  • Polystyrenes / metabolism
  • Pseudomonas / classification
  • Pseudomonas / genetics
  • Pseudomonas / isolation & purification
  • Pseudomonas / metabolism*
  • Succinates / metabolism


  • Plastics
  • Polyethylenes
  • Polystyrenes
  • Succinates
  • poly(ethylene succinate)