Seminar of the Department of Microbiology

Superworms – a model system for plastic biodegradation

Prof. Chris Rinke – Universität Innsbruck  – Institut für Mikrobiologie - Mikrobielles MultiOmics und Biorecycling

16.05.2024, 11:00 - Hybrid

  • Join online
  • or in presence: Seminarraum Biologie - Foyer (Technikerstraße 25, EG)


Chris Rinke


The large amount of plastic waste produced globally, and the associated environmental impacts and health risks, have triggered a renewed push for sustainable plastic recycling solutions. This includes research on microbial driven plastic degradation, which is generating new targets for protein engineering and has put biorecycling on the map as a future plastic-waste management strategy. A promising microbial plastic degradation model system is the superworm (Zophobas morio) and its gut microbiome. We have shown that superworms can survive on a sole diet of the plastic polystyrene and are able to gain weight in the process. Microbial gut communities changed considerably in superworms on a polystyrene diet, and we detected several encoded enzymes with reported polystyrene and styrene degradation abilities. Our current efforts focus on an improved understanding of microbial pathways involved in plastic degradation, through multiomics approaches, targeting superworm gut bacteria. These results will facilitate biochemical and structural enzyme characterisations and support our overall quest to develop enzymatic biocatalysts for industrial plastic biorecycling. 

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