Biosurfactants (BS) are produced by a variety of microorganisms from renewable resources, and have unique properties compared to chemical surfactants. In order to attain efficient production of BS from low-cost materials, we focused our attention on the use of sugarcane molasses. Fifteen yeast strains that are known as BS producers were examined for BS productivity from a culture medium consisting of only molasses and water. Among the strains tested, only Starmerella bombicola NBRC 10243 produced sophorolipids (SL), which are glycolipid BS. The culture conditions for the yeast were then investigated in a shake-flask culture. SL production was significantly affected by the pH of the medium and was highly accelerated at pH 6. Under the optimum conditions, the amount of SL reached 14.4 g/L after 120 h from a medium containing 150 g/L of total sugars. We tried to improve the production of SL further by feeding the molasses using a jar fermentor. Interestingly, the amount of SL increased up to 22.8 g/L after 120 h; the production rate was 1.6-fold higher than that in the shake-flask culture. These results suggest that the present yeast should have great potential for the low-cost production of SL, and facilitate the application of BS in various fields.
2011 by Japan Oil Chemists' Society