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Background: Heterotrophic microbial oils are potentially a more sustainable alternative to vegetable or fossil oils for food and fuel applications. However, as almost all work in the area is conducted on the laboratory scale, such studies carry limited industrial relevance and do not give a clear indication of what is required to produce an actual industrial process. Metschnikowia pulcherrima is a non-pathogenic industrially promising oleaginous yeast which exhibits numerous advantages for cost-effective lipid production, including a wide substrate uptake, antimicrobial activity and fermentation inhibitor tolerance. In this study, M. pulcherrima was fermented in stirred tank reactors of up to 350 L with 250-L working volume in both batch and semi-continuous operation to highlight the potential industrial relevance. Due to being food-grade, suitable for handling at scale and to demonstrate the oligosaccharide uptake capacity of M. pulcherrima, enzyme-hydrolysed starch in the form of glucose syrup was selected as fermentation feedstock.
Results: In batch fermentations on the 2-L scale, a lipid concentration of 14.6 g L−1 and productivity of 0.11 g L−1 h−1 were achieved, which was confirmed at 50 L (15.8 g L−1; 0.10 g L−1 h−1). The maximum lipid production rate was 0.33 g L−1 h−1 (daily average), but the substrate uptake rate decreased with oligosaccharide chain length. To produce 1 kg of dry yeast biomass containing up to 43% (w/w) lipids, 5.2 kg of the glucose syrup was required, with a lipid
yield of up to 0.21 g g−1 consumed saccharides. In semi-continuous operation, for the first time, an oleaginous yeast was cultured for over 2 months with a relatively stable lipid production rate (around 0.08 g L−1 h−1) and fatty acid profile (degree of fatty acid saturation around 27.6% w/w), and without contamination. On the 250-L scale, comparable results were observed, culminating in the generation of nearly 10 kg lipids with a lipid productivity of 0.10 g L−1 h−1.
Conclusions: The results establish the importance of M. pulcherrima for industrial biotechnology and its suitability to commercially produce a food-grade oil. Further improvements in the productivity are required to make M. pulcherrima lipid production industrial reality, particularly when longer-chain saccharides are involved.

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 665992 
Original languageEnglish
Article number127
Number of pages12
JournalBiotechnology for Biofuels
Publication statusPublished - 16 Jul 2020


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