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KAIST Research Team Creates the Scent of Jasmine from Microorganisms​
View : 1649 Date : 2024-03-05 Writer : PR Office

The fragrance of jasmine and ylang-ylang, used widely in the manufacturing of cosmetics, foods, and beverages, can be produced by direct extraction from their respective flowers. In reality, this makes it difficult for production to meet demand, so companies use benzyl acetate, a major aromatic component of the two fragrances that is chemically synthesized from raw materials derived from petroleum.


On February 26, a KAIST research team led by Research Professor Kyeong Rok Choi from the BioProcess Engineering Research Center and Distinguished Professor Sang Yup Lee from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering revealed the development of the first microbial process to effectively produce benzyl acetate, an industrially useful compound, from renewable carbon sources such as glucose. The results were published in their paper titled “A microbial process for the production of benzyl acetate”.


< Figure 1. Production of benzyl acetate through co-culture of upstream and downstream strains harboring the benzoic acid-dependent pathway. >


The team, led by Distinguished Professor Lee, aimed to produce benzyl acetate through an environmentally friendly and sustainable method, and developed an Escherichia coli strand to convert glucose into benzyl acetate through system metabolic engineering*.

*System metabolic engineering: a field of research founded by Distinguished Professor Lee to effectively develop microbial cell plants, a core component of the bio-industry that will replace the existing chemical industry, which is highly dependent on petroleum.


The research team developed a metabolic pathway that biosynthesizes benzyl acetate from benzoic acid derived from glucose, and successfully produced benzyl acetate by co-culturing** the strain.

**co-culture: simultaneously synthesizing two or more types of microorganisms in a mixture


However, it has been confirmed that the enzyme used to convert benzoic acid into benzyl acetate in this co-culturing technique acts non-specifically on an intermediate product during benzoic acid biosynthesis, producing a by-product called cinnamyl acetate. This process consumes the intermediate product needed for benzoic acid biosynthesis, thereby reducing the production efficiency of the target compound, benzyl acetate.


To overcome this problem, Distinguished Professor Lee and his team devised a delayed co-culture method, where they first produced benzoic acid in the earlier stages of fermentation by only culturing the top strain that produces benzoic acid from glucose, and later inoculated the bottom strain to convert the accumulated benzoic acid in the culture medium into benzyl acetate.


By applying this co-culture technique, the team suppressed the formation of by-products without further strain improvement or applying additional enzymes, and multiplied the concentration of the target compound by 10 times, producing 2.2 g/L of benzyl acetate. In addition, the team confirmed its potential for the commercial production of benzyl acetate through a technical economic analysis on this microbial process.


< Figure 2. Delayed co-culture of the Bn1 and Bn-BnAc3 strains for improved production of benzyl acetate through the benzoic acid-independent pathway.>


Research Professor Keyong Rok Choi, who was the first author of this paper, said, “This work is significant in that we have developed an effective microbial process to produce the industrially useful compound benzyl acetate, and also in that we have suggested a new approach to overcome the target chemical efficiency diminution and by-product formation issues caused commonly through non-specific enzyme activities during metabolic engineering.”


Distinguished Professor Lee said, “If we can increase the variety and number of microbial processes that produce useful chemicals through sustainable methods and at the same time develop effective strategies to solve chronic and inevitable problems that arise during microbial strain development, we will be able to accelerate the transition from the petrochemical industry into the eco-friendly and sustainable bio-industry.


This work was published online in Nature Chemical Engineering, issued by Nature.


This research was supported by the ‘Implementation of Intelligent Cell Factory Technology (PI: Distinguished Professor Sang Yup Lee) Project by the Ministry of Science and ICT, and the ‘Development of Protein Production Technology from Inorganic Substances through Microbiological Metabolic System Control’ (PI: Research Professor Kyeong Rok Choi) by the Agricultural Microbiological Project Group at the Rural Development Administration.


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