There is no simple, non-chemical, non-incineration-based, inexpensive method to remove per- and poly-fluoroalkyl compounds (PFASs) from the environment. Therefore, a biological method that enables sustainable and efficient biodegradation of PFAS would be an inexpensive and effective alternative to remove these compounds from the environment, particularly from industrial wastewater and water in general.
Preliminary studies have shown that dehalogenase enzymes (DEHAs) can biodegrade perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), a reference PFAS, albeit inefficiently.
With our research project, however, we aim to optimize the defluorination of PFOA by:
-overexpression of DEHA enzymes in appropriate microorganisms;
-optimizing degradation conditions;
-the identification of new DEHAs;
-the design of new synthetic DEHAs through in silico structural modeling and mutation analysis.
The latter will be accomplished by modeling with Alphafold and estimating dehalogenase enzyme sequence changes to improve the catalytic efficiency of PFOA degradation. This will make it possible to design new synthetic dehalogenase enzymes and evaluate their PFOA degradation activity.
The results of our project will provide a "proof of concept" for the development of a technology that, once established, can be easily applied to other PFAS and can be used to test new candidate enzymes for PFAS biodegradation. The results of the project will then form the basis for designing the industrial-scale introduction of the laboratory process that we will have developed and optimized.
In addition, the same technology could find sustainable application for the bioremediation of other polyhalogenated substances and, thus, have a significant industrial and environmental impact for the bioremediation of this huge group of toxic and environmentally hazardous pollutants.
Effective PFAS bioremediation processes would have a huge potential economic impact and would be a solution to prevent PFAS pollution and, consequently, improve environmental quality and public health.
Support our project with a donation and contact us if you would like to learn more.