Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Faculty Research


Rhamnolipid Production by Pseudomonas Aeruginosa under Denitrification: Effects of Limiting Nutrients and Carbon Substrates

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Publication Date

Fall 2001


Being biosurfactants, rhamnolipids create severe foaming when produced in aerobic Pseudomonas aeruginosa fermentation. The necessary reduction of aeration causes oxygen limitation and restricts cell and product concentrations. In this study, we evaluate the new strategy of rhamnolipid production under denitrification conditions. Because hydrocarbons used in earlier aerobic fermentations were not metabolizable in the absence of oxygen, other potential C substrates were examined, including palmitic acid, stearic acid, oleic acid, linoleic acid, glycerol, vegetable oil, and glucose. All were found able to support cell growth under anaerobic denitrification. The growth on the two solid substrates (palmitic acid and stearic acid) was slower but could be enhanced substantially by initial addition of rhamnolipids (0.06 g/L). The effects of different limiting nutrients (N, P, S, Mg, Ca, and Fe) were also investigated. The commonly used N limitation could not be adopted in the denitrifying fermentation because the nitrate added for anaerobic respiration would also be assimilated for growth. P limitation was most effective, giving four- to fivefold higher specific productivity than the conventional N limitation. S limitation was comparable to N limitation; Mg limitation was much poorer. Ca and Fe were ineffective in limiting cell growth. The new strategy was further evaluated in a P-limited fermentation with palmitic acid as the substrate. The fermentation was first carried out under denitrification and later switched to aerobic condition. The specific productivity under denitrification was found to be about one-third that of the aerobic condition. The denitrification process was, however, free of foaming or respiratory limitation. Much higher cell concentrations may be employed to attain higher volumetric productivity and product concentrations, for more economical product recovery and/or purification. © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Biotechnol Bioeng 72: 25–33, 2001.





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