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Factors affecting the production of L-phenylacetylcarbinol by yeast: a case study.

L-Phenylacetylcarbinol (L-PAC) is the precursor for L-ephedrine and D-pseudoephedrine, alkaloids possessing alpha- and beta-adrenergic activity. The most commonly used method for production of L-PAC is a biological method whereby the enzyme pyruvate decarboxylase (PDC) decarboxylates pyruvate and then condenses the product with added benzaldehyde. The process may be undertaken by either whole cells or purified PDC. If whole cells are used, the biomass may be grown and allowed to synthesize endogenous pyruvate, or the cells may be used as a catalyst only, with both pyruvate and benzaldehyde being added. Several yeast species have been investigated with regard to L-PAC-producing potential; the most commonly used organisms are strains of Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Candida utilis. It was found that initial high production rates did not necessarily result in the highest final yields. Researchers then examined ways of improving the productivity of the process. The substrate, benzaldehyde, and the product, L-PAC, as well as the by-products, were found to be toxic to the biomass. Methods examined to reduce toxicity include modification of benzaldehyde dosing regimes, immobilization of biomass or purified enzymes, modification of benzaldehyde solubility and the use of two-phase reaction systems. Various means of modifying metabolism to enhance enzyme activity, relevant metabolic pathways and yield have been examined. Methods investigated include the use of respiratory quotient to influence pyruvate production and induce fermentative activity, reduced aeration to increase PDC activity, and carbohydrate feeding to modify glycolytic enzyme activity. The effect of temperature on L-PAC yield has been examined to identify conditions which provide the optimal balance between L-PAC and benzyl alcohol production, and L-PAC inactivation. However, relatively little work has been undertaken on the effect of medium composition on L-PAC yield.[1]


  1. Factors affecting the production of L-phenylacetylcarbinol by yeast: a case study. Oliver, A.L., Anderson, B.N., Roddick, F.A. Adv. Microb. Physiol. (1999) [Pubmed]
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