DR CHRIS SOMERVILLE / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY DR CHRIS SOMERVILLE / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Plastic made in a plant cell. Colour Transmission Electron Micrograph (TEM) of a section through a plant chloroplast containing granules of plastic. The granules (yellow) are filled with the natural biodegradable plastic polyhydroxybutyrate or PHB. The plant involved is thale cress (Arabidopsis thaliana). Chloroplasts are normally the sites of photosynthesis. In this case, however, genes of the bacterium Alcaligenes eutrophus which code for plastic production were transplanted into thale cress cells. Plastic production is isolated in the chloroplasts, with plastic comprising up to 14% of the plant dry weight. Genetic engineering may enable plastics to be harvested from plant crops.
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