Any organic compound containing fluorine is rare among living organisms as they do not produce these. There are some exceptions obviously.
Recently some American scientists have genetically designed a microbial host for organic fluorine metabolism, which produces a fluoridated intermediate which is named Diketide. The scientists have reported in the journal Angewandte Chemie, that this Diketide can be used as a monomer in case of in vivo production of fluorine-based bio-plastics.
Fluorine is very common for daily life use for us not like nature. If you try to find the usage of fluorine, what come to our minds are water repellent gore-tex jackets of polytetrafluoroethylene or Teflon coating. Fluorine is used in medicines. More than 20 to 30% medicines like anti-malarial, drugs for anesthetics, cytostatic, liquid ventilation agents all contain fluorine compounds.
From agriculture to ozone-friendly refrigerators and propellants it is used widely. Organic fluorine compounds are also used for liquid crystal display. Scientist Michelle C.Y.Chang of University of California, Berkeley (USA) and his colleagues aimed to biosynthetic machine system within the cells to make new organic fluorine molecules from simple fluorinated building blocks.
They got this idea from the potential of living systems of turning a simple compound into a highly complex compound.
To make this idea work out, they introduced genes that code for three typically efficient enzymes from a variety of microorganisms into a bacterium named Escherichia coli to design the Diketide. These enzymes are able to use their fluorine-containing derivatives in their normal substrates.
It is also necessary to introduce another gene with a transport protein which can carry fluromalonate which is typically a fluorine-containing starting compound into the cell. These enzymes will allow the cells to use the biosynthesis process to make fluoromalonyle coenzyme A and to convert it into 2-fluoro-(R)-3-hydroxybutyrate Diketide
Bioplastics for packing and medical implants
In this process, the scientists have to introduce another gene for an enzyme which is used by many bacteria for making polyhydroxyalkanoates or PHAs, which are polyesters typically used to store energy and carbon. The biodegradable PHAs are used to make bioplastics for food packing and medical implants.
Now the new genetically designed microorganisms incorporate the fluorinated Diketide into their PHAs, by generating polymers which contain nearly 5 to 10% fluorinated monomers.
The scientists have shown that the fluorinated bioplastics are less brittle than the original PHAs. So the controlled incorporation of fluorinated monomers can bring change in the properties of bioplastics. The scientists are targeting to use the main component fluoromalonyle coenzyme A to produce a huge range of small fluorinated molecules among living cells for making bioplastics for pharmaceutical purposes.