New publication on the positive effect of low-cost fatty acids on microbial production of valuable plant polyphenols


Bacteria synthesizing biotechnologically interesting aromatic compounds such as plant polyphenols often become poisoned by these products, as these hydrophobic compounds accumulate in/and on the cell envelope. This can result in the disruption of important processes such as cellular mass transfer or even negatively affect the integrity of the cell envelope.


In the recent article published in Nature Communications entitled "Membrane manipulation by free fatty acids improves microbial plant polyphenol synthesis", Apilaasha Tharmasothirajan from the Synthetic Cell Factories group of Jan Marienhagen (IBG-1, Forschungszentrum Jülich) demonstrated these toxic effects during microbial production of the stilbenoid resveratrol with the bacterium Corynebacterium glutamicum. Furthermore, she could successfully compensate these effects by adding low concentrations of inexpensive, free fatty acids. These fatty acids are neither degraded by the bacterium nor incorporated into the cell envelope, but remain as free fatty acids in the membrane and cell wall. There they significantly increase membrane fluidity and thus counteract the cytotoxic effects of resveratrol. As a result, bacteria are longer metabolically active during microbial resveratrol production and can produce more resveratrol. Interestingly, these positive effects are also transferable to the microbiological synthesis of other aromatic compounds, which could also make this approach interesting on a larger, industrial scale.

These great results could be developed within the EU-funded collaborative project "MemBRane" with colleagues from Groningen/NL, Birmingham/UK, Manchester/UK and Imola/IT.