Sunday, 24 October 2021

Evolution News - The Difference Between Information and Meaning

I. sakaiensis grown on poly(ethylene terephthalate) (PET) accumulates poly(3-hydroxybutyrate) (PHB).
How a bacterium may help solve the plastic pollution crisis|NARA Institute of Science and Technology

One key concept in genetic evolution that Creationists, either wilfully, or because of genuinely limited critical thinking ability, find hard to grasp, is the difference between genetic information and the meaning of that information in the context of the prevailing environment. This makes them especially susceptible to professional frauds in the Deception Institute and others in the Creation Industry, to false claims about mutation always involving a loss of information, when what changes in most forms of mutation is simply a change in the meaning of the information.

Certain bacteria harbor the necessary enzymes to degrade PET, the most problematic plastic environmentally. Our research has shown that the bacterium Ideonella sakaiensis converts PET into poly(3-hydroxybutyrate) (PHB), a type of poly(hydroxyalkanoate) (PHA) plastic that is biodegradable.

We believe that this discovery could be significant in tackling plastic pollution, as we show that the PET-degradation and PHB-synthesis pathways are functionally linked in I. sakaiensis. This might provide a novel pathway where a single bacterial species breaks down difficult-to-recycle PET plastics and uses the products to make biodegradable PHA plastics.

Shosuke Yoshida, senior author
Institute for Research Initiatives,
Nara Institute of Science and Technology, Nara, Japan
This is illustrated neatly by the discovery that the 201-F6 strain of the bacterium Ideonella sakaiensis can not only degrade petroleum-based plastics but can also sustainably produce biodegradable plastics from otherwise non-biodegradable poly(ethylene terephthalate) (PET), a plastic widely used for disposable containers such as drinks bottles as well as textiles and food wrappers. This discovery was made by scientists at the Nara Institute of Science and Technology (NAIST), Kansai Science City, Japan. Their findings are published, open access, in Scientific Reports.

This ability depends on the presence of two enzymes, PET hydrolase (PETase) and mono(2-hydroxyethyl) terephthalic acid (MHET) hydrolase (MHETase) which together hydrolyse PET into terephthalic acid (TPA) and ethylene glycol (EG) monomers, both of which are readily biodegraded by other organisms.

In this strain of bacteria, genetic information has mutated to produce these two enzymes which, in the context of an environment highly polluted by man-made plastics, has given them the ability to exploit an abundant food source, unlike their ancestral form. Had this mutation arisen in pre-plastic times, it would have been utterly useless and might even have been detrimental in taking up resources to produce useless enzymes. In other words, the change in information now has a highly beneficial meaning in the context of a modern Earth, where once it had none.

In their paper published a few days ago in Scientific Reports the team say:

Poly(ethylene terephthalate) (PET) is a widely used plastic in bottles and fibers; its waste products pollute the environment owing to its remarkable durability. Recently, Ideonella sakaiensis 201-F6 was isolated as a unique bacterium that can degrade and assimilate PET, thus paving the way for the bioremediation and bioconversion of PET waste. We found that this strain harbors a poly(hydroxyalkanoate) (PHA) synthesis gene cluster, which is highly homologous with that of Cupriavidus necator, an efficient PHA producer. Cells grown on PET accumulated intracellular PHA at high levels. Collectively, our findings in this study demonstrate that I. sakaiensis can mediate the direct conversion of non-biodegradable PET into environment-friendly plastic, providing a new approach for PET recycling.

What has changed in not the quantity of genetic information but the contextual meaning of it and that meaning has changed over time with the invention, use and environmental accumulation of vast quantities of non-biodegradable man-made plastic.

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