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 uncertainty and low yield of plant oil supply and requirement of multiple (bio)catalytic steps. 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 & modification of fatty compounds as well as increasing availability of genetic tools for this organism.
Website: Yeast Metabolic Engineering Group
Yeasts has been my favorite cell factory and I have worked with two of them, Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Yarrowia lipolytica . With my background in Chemical Engineering, I see yeast as complex chemical plant with interconnected bioreactors asking to be engineered and optimized. I am thrilled by the challenge of simultaneously see the metabolism as a whole and minding the requirement of individual components in creating high-performing cell factories.
After introducing certain pathways towards certain compounds, very often production is low. Compartmentalization, competing pathways, modes of regulation, intercellular trafficking, and reaction mechanism needs to be taken into account to achieve high-level production. I am keen on working on non-linear, multi-compartmentalized, biochemically-intricate pathways where those multiple strategies needs to be considered.