Submitted to: New Biotechnology
Publication Type: Review Article
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/3/2009
Publication Date: 10/1/2009
Citation: Hou, C.T. 2009. Biotechnology for fats and oils: New oxygenated fatty acids. New Biotechnology. 26:2-10.
Interpretive Summary: The U.S. has a large amount of surplus soybean oil annually, and using vegetable oils or their component fatty acids as starting material provides a new opportunity for bioindustry. In this review, we discussed the use of new biotechnology to produce value-added products such as new oxygenated fatty acids from vegetable oils based on our own studies. Oxygenated fatty acids can be used not only as specialty chemicals, but also as bioactive compounds such as antifungal agents. Keto and hydroxy fatty acids are useful industrial chemicals, used in plasticizer, surfactant, lubricant and detergent formulations because of their special chemical properties, such as higher viscosity and reactivity compared with other fatty acids. We discovered more than 15 new bioactive or potentially bioactive oxygenated fatty acids. Many of these new products showed antimicrobial activities. We found that the position of hydroxyl groups on the fatty acyl carbon chain plays an important role in the activity against certain specific plant pathogenic fungi. Fat and oil represent an area with tremendous opportunity for new biotechnology to explore. Success of our studies in developing a new one-step bioprocess to produce these new products will benefit farmers, polymer industries, specialty chemical companies, biomedical companies and the U.S. agricultural community.
Technical Abstract: Among the three groups of natural products (starch, protein and fat), fat and oil are the most under-investigated. The US has a large amount of surplus soybean oil annually, and using vegetable oils or their component fatty acids as starting material provides a new opportunity for bioindustry. Vegetable oils are relatively inexpensive and can be used to manufacture value-added products such as oxygenated oils. Oxygenated fatty acids are common in nature and are important industrial materials. They exist both in mammals and plants. Microorganisms oxidize fatty acids either at the terminal carbon or inside of the acyl chain to produce hydroxyl or keto fatty acids. In our continuing effort to produce value-added products from vegetable oils, we discovered more than one dozen novel oxygenated fatty acids through biotransformation. Microbial hydratase is a carbon 10 positional specific enzyme. These new oxygenated fatty acids possess physiological activities and can be used as biomedicals, in addition to their known applications as specialty chemicals. The position of hydroxyl groups on the fatty acyl carbon chain plays an important role in the activity against certain specific plant pathogenic fungi. Bacillus megaterium ALA2 converted polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) in different ways. It converted omega-6 PUFAs to a mixture of diepoxy bicyclic, tetrahydrofuranyl rings, and/or trihydroxy groups in their molecules while the products from omega-3 PUFAs produced only hydroxyl tetrahydrofuranyl ring products. Fat and oil represent an area with tremendous opportunity for new biotechnology to explore.