Rubber is a natural product and has been produced by hand (Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, China) for over 100 years by tapping the rubber tree (Hevea brasiliensis) on a scale of millions of tonnes per year. Chemically, it is the polymer of isoprene (poly-1,4-cis-isoprene). After cross-linking the long (unsaturated) carbon structure through sulphur bridges in the course of vulcanisation, the physicochemical properties of the product improve enormously and the typical properties of a rubber are obtained.
The main product of the rubber industry in terms of quantity is car tyres, and M. Schuhmacher's successes are based not least on special (secret) mixtures used in the manufacture of tyres. Other typical rubber-based products are (rubber) seals, latex gloves, rubber boots, condoms, chewing gum and many more. As a natural product, rubber is subject to natural material cycles in the environment; unlike many chemically produced plastics such as polypropylene, rubber can be used as a carbon source by many microorganisms and degraded to water and carbon dioxide.
Surprisingly, very little is known about the biological and biochemical processes involved. In particular, the elucidation of the enzymatic cleavage of the polymer into smaller fragments represents an interesting academic and biotechnologically relevant problem. This process is being investigated in the Jendrossek working group.
Biochemistry and molecular biology of microbial degradation of Natural Rubber (Polyisopren)