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Challenges in the microbial production of flavonoids

Delmulle, Tom, De Maeseneire, SofieL., De Mey, Marjan
Phytochemistry reviews 2018 v.17 no.2 pp. 229-247
coculture, fermentation, flavonoids, humans, industry, metabolic engineering, screening, synthesis
As flavonoids have beneficial health effects on humans, they are gaining increasing interest from pharmaceutical and health industries. However, current production methods, such as plant extraction and chemical synthesis, are inadequate to meet the demand. Therefore, microbial production might offer a promising alternative. During recent years, microbial strains able to produce flavonoids to a certain extent have been developed. However production titers are limited to the mg l⁻¹ range, hampering the industrial exploitation of these strains. The latter will not be achieved by simply introducing the heterologous pathway in the production host and optimizing the fermentation process, but will depend on the interaction of different aspects of metabolic engineering and process engineering to overcome the current limitations. Next to engineering the production strain to optimize the availability of precursors, the pathway itself also requires intensive engineering. Currently utilized strategies result in a wide variety of different production strains, requiring high-throughput screening methods to identify optimal performing strains. As more and more organisms are being characterized, each with their own specific properties which might be beneficial for the heterologous production of flavonoids, the choice of the production host is another important aspect. Finally, the use of co-cultures might offer an alternative in which different parts of the process are performed by different organisms. This review aims to provide an overview of the research that has been done on these separate aspects. The work presented here could be used as a framework for further research.