• plant cell culture;
  • paclitaxel;
  • bioseparations;
  • downstream processing;
  • partition coefficient;
  • selectivity


A major challenge in the production of metabolites by plant cells is the separation and purification of a desired product from a number of impurities. An important application of plant cell culture is the biosynthesis of the anticancer agent paclitaxel. Liquid–liquid extraction plays a critical role in the recovery of paclitaxel and other valuable plant-derived products from culture broth. In this study, the extraction of paclitaxel and a major unwanted by-product, cephalomannine, from plant cell culture broth into organic solvents is quantified. Potential solvent mixtures show varying affinity and selectivity for paclitaxel over cephalomannine. The partition coefficient of paclitaxel is highest in ethyl acetate and dichloromethane, with measured values of 28 and 25, respectively; however, selectivity coefficients are less than 1 for paclitaxel over cephalomannine for both solvents. Selectivity coefficient increases to 1.7 with extraction in n-hexane, but the partition coefficient decreases to 1.9. Altering the pH of the aqueous phase results in an increase in both recovery and selectivity using n-hexane but does not change the results for other solvents significantly. The addition of extractants trioctylamine (TOA) or tributylphosphate (TBP) to n-hexane gives significantly higher partition coefficients for paclitaxel (8.6 and 23.7, respectively) but no selectivity. Interestingly, when 20% hexafluorobenzene (HFB) is added to n-hexane, the partition coefficient remains approximately constant, but the selectivity coefficient for paclitaxel over cephalomannine improves to 4.5. This significant increase in selectivity early in the purification process has the potential to simplify downstream processing steps and significantly reduce overall purification costs. © 2012 American Institute of Chemical Engineers Biotechnol. Prog., 28: 990–997, 2012