Microbial production of vitamins

Microbial production of vitamins

Humans and other organisms have essential requirements of a range of different vitamins to assist in metabolic pathways, and as such, a plentiful dietary intake or vitamins is linked with improved health. Where humans have vitamin deficiencies, supplementation with non food vitamins is a standard remedy. Addition of vitamins to animal feeds also promotes healthy livestock. Today, vitamin supplements are available in capsule form, made more affordable by developments in their industrial production, chiefly in the form of microbial processes as opposed to chemical synthesis.

Microbes’ posses the simplicity and flexibility needed for economic vitamin production. Many microorganism can be genetically modified to over express enzymes in the synthesis pathway of various vitamins . With the ability to grow on cheap feedstocks and produce an improved yield compared to chemical synthesis, microbial production of vitamins also boasts a much lower cost in terms of the energy input necessary to drive the process forward. Maintaining microbial fermentation conditions are significantly less expensive than all the different conditions needed for a variety of reaction steps in the chemical process.

There are still challenges that face microbial production of vitamins that are difficult to address. For example, in engineered microbes that can express every enzyme necessary to produce the desired vitamin, allosteric inhibition from the vitamin or intermediates in the synthesis pathway can hamper the yield. Also, particularly, in the case of riboflavin production, very little of the vitamin is secreted by the microbes, meaning that the cultured cells must be lysed in order to obtain the vitamin and replaced with a new culture (i.e. difficulties in feasibility of continuous culture).

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