Bacterial degradation of natural rubber: a privilege of actinomycetes?

FEMS Microbiol Lett. 1997 May 15;150(2):179-88. doi: 10.1016/s0378-1097(97)00072-4.


Using natural rubber latex as the sole source of carbon and energy 50 rubber-degrading bacteria were isolated. Out of those 50 isolates, 33 were identified as Streptomyces species and 8 as Micromonospora species. Screening of 1220 bacteria obtained from different culture collections revealed 46 additional rubber-degrading bacteria (Streptomyces 31 strains, Micromonospora 5, Actinoplanes 3, Nocardia 2, Dactylosporangium 1, Actinomadura 1, unidentified 3). All rubber-degrading isolates were identified as members of the actinomycetes, a large group of mycelium-forming Gram-positive bacteria. Interestingly no Gram-negative bacterium could be isolated. In most strains expression of extracellular rubber-degrading enzymes was repressed by glucose and/or succinate. The reduction of the average molecular mass of solution-cast films of natural rubber from 640000 to 25000 in liquid culture upon bacterial growth indicates the participation of an endo-cleavage mechanism of degradation.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Actinomycetales / metabolism*
  • Biodegradation, Environmental
  • Carbohydrate Metabolism
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Environmental Microbiology
  • Enzyme Induction / drug effects
  • Europe
  • Far East
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial / drug effects
  • Glucose / pharmacology
  • Phenotype
  • Rubber / metabolism*
  • Species Specificity
  • Succinates / pharmacology
  • Succinic Acid


  • Succinates
  • Rubber
  • Succinic Acid
  • Glucose