DOI: 10.1002/bit.28625 ISSN: 0006-3592

A review on the upstream production and downstream purification of mannosylerythritol lipids

André D. Valkenburg, Mellisa Z. Ncube, George M. Teke, Eugéne van Rensburg, Robert W. M. Pott
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Bioengineering
  • Biotechnology


Biosurfactants are natural compounds with remarkable surface‐active properties that may offer an eco‐friendly alternative to conventional surfactants. Among them, mannosylerythritol lipids (MELs) stand out as an intriguing example of a glycolipid biosurfactant. MELs have been used in a variety of sectors for various applications, and are currently commercially produced. Industrially, they are used in the pharmaceutical, cosmetic, food, and agricultural industries, based on their ability to reduce surface tension and enhance emulsification. However, despite their utility, their production is comparatively limited industrially. From a bioprocessing standpoint, two areas of interest to improve the production process are upstream production and downstream (separation and purification) product recovery. The former has seen a significant amount of research, with researchers investigating several production factors: the microbial species or strain employed, the producing media composition, and the production strategy implemented. Improvement and optimization of these are key to scale‐up the production of MELs. On the other hand, the latter has seen comparatively limited work presented in the literature. For the most part traditional separation techniques have been employed. This systematic review presents the production and purification methodologies used by researchers by comprehensively analyzing the current state‐of‐the‐art with regards the production, separation, and purification of MELs. By doing so, the review presents different possible approaches, and highlights some potential areas for future work by identifying opportunities for the commercialization of MELs.

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