Project 16: Lactone production from fatty substrates
Lactone molecules, especially those with gamma and delta ring and 8-16 carbons are used for flavor ingredients. The production of these lactones, however, required specific substrates obtained from plants. This necessity is a great disadvantage to the biocatalytic process due to costs in raw material pretreatment and abundance of side products which can contain toxic compounds. It also hampers production sustainability due to the low yield of some plant oils, long cultivations times, land clearing, and social conflicts in land usage. We propose an alternative approach, where engineered cell factories are used to produce the desired lactones from cheap fatty feedstocks. We employ oleaginous yeast Yarrowia lipolytica for this purpose as it is capable of efficient uptake of fatty compounds as well as increasing availability of genetic tools for this organism.
Website: Yeast Metabolic Engineering Group
In second-generation biorefineries, pretreatment and enzymatic hydrolysis steps are applied to turn biomass feedstock into monomeric sugars (major components are glucose, xylose, and arabinose). These sugars are subsequently converted into desired products using microbes. Yeast Kluyveromyces marxianus is an attractive cell factory for this conversion process owing to its excellent tolerance of high temperature and growth inhibitors as well as its natural ability to consume the biomass hydrolysate sugars. Since K. marxianus is a considerably new cell factory, the tools for genomic manipulation of this yeast are not well-developed yet. My project aims to develop synthetic biology tools to enable metabolic engineering of K. marxianus. By employing these synthetic biology tools, novel cell factories to convert biomass hydrolysate to organic acids will be created. These organic acids will find application, for example, in food, pharmaceutical, coating and adhesive, bioplastic, and textile industries.