Plastic waste imposes a serious problem to the environment and society. Hence, strategies for a circular plastic economy are demanded. One strategy is the engineering of polyester hydrolases toward higher activity for the biotechnological recycling of polyethylene terephthalate (PET). To provide tools for the rapid characterization of PET hydrolases and the detection of degredation products like terephthalic acid (TPA), we coupled a carboxylic acid reductase (CAR) and the luciferase LuxAB. CAR converted TPA into the corresponding aldehydes in Escherichia coli, which yielded bioluminescence that not only semiquantitatively reflected amounts of TPA in hydrolysis samples but is suitable as a high-throughput screening assay to assess PET hydrolase activity. Furthermore, the CAR-catalyzed synthesis of terephthalaldehyde was combined with a reductive amination cascade in a one-pot setup yielding the corresponding diamine, suggesting a new strategy for the transformation of TPA as a product obtained from PET biodegradation.
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