Heterologous production of long-chain rhamnolipids from Burkholderia glumae in Pseudomonas putida-a step forward to tailor-made rhamnolipids.

Research paper by Andreas A Wittgens, Beatrix B Santiago-Schuebel, Marius M Henkel, Till T Tiso, Lars Mathias LM Blank, Rudolf R Hausmann, Diana D Hofmann, Susanne S Wilhelm, Karl-Erich KE Jaeger, Frank F Rosenau

Indexed on: 22 Dec '17Published on: 22 Dec '17Published in: Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology


Rhamnolipids are biosurfactants consisting of rhamnose (Rha) molecules linked through a β-glycosidic bond to 3-hydroxyfatty acids with various chain lengths, and they have an enormous potential for various industrial applications. The best known native rhamnolipid producer is the human pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which produces short-chain rhamnolipids mainly consisting of a Rha-Rha-C10-C10 congener. Bacteria from the genus Burkholderia are also able to produce rhamnolipids, which are characterized by their long-chain 3-hydroxyfatty acids with a predominant Rha-Rha-C14-C14 congener. These long-chain rhamnolipids offer different physicochemical properties compared to their counterparts from P. aeruginosa making them very interesting to establish novel potential applications. However, widespread applications of rhamnolipids are still hampered by the pathogenicity of producer strains and-even more important-by the complexity of regulatory networks controlling rhamnolipid production, e.g., the so-called quorum sensing system. To overcome encountered challenges of the wild type, the responsible genes for rhamnolipid biosynthesis in Burkholderia glumae were heterologously expressed in the non-pathogenic Pseudomonas putida KT2440. Our results show that long-chain rhamnolipids from Burkholderia spec. can be produced in P. putida. Surprisingly, the heterologous expression of the genes rhlA and rhlB encoding an acyl- and a rhamnosyltransferase, respectively, resulted in the synthesis of two different mono-rhamnolipid species containing one or two 3-hydroxyfatty acid chains in equal amounts. Furthermore, mixed biosynthetic rhlAB operons with combined genes from different organisms were created to determine whether RhlA or RhlB is responsible to define the fatty acid chain lengths in rhamnolipids.