Continuous rhamnolipid production using denitrifying Pseudomonas aeruginosa cells in hollow-fiber bioreactor



Rhamnolipids are high-value effective biosurfactants produced by Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Large-scale production of rhamnolipids is still challenging especially under free-cell aerobic conditions in which the highly foaming nature of the culture broth reduces the productivity of the process. Immobilized systems relying on oxygen as electron acceptor have been previously investigated but oxygen transfer limitation presents difficulties for continuous rhamnolipid production. A coupled system using immobilized cells and nitrate instead of oxygen as electron acceptor taking advantage of the ability of P. aeruginosa to perform nitrate respiration was evaluated. This denitrification-based immobilized approach based on a hollow-fiber setup eliminated the transfer limitation problems and was found suitable for continuous rhamnolipid production in a period longer than 1,500 h. It completely eliminated the foaming difficulties related to aerobic systems with a comparable specific productivity of 0.017 g/(g dry cells)-h and allowed easy recovery of rhamnolipids from the cell-free medium. © 2013 American Institute of Chemical Engineers Biotechnol. Prog., 29: 346–351, 2013