Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology, Vol.105, No.5, 1779-1793, 2021
The role of transport proteins in the production of microbial glycolipid biosurfactants
Several microorganisms are currently being used as production platform for glycolipid biosurfactants, providing a greener alternative to chemical biosurfactants. One of the reasons why these processes are commercially competitive is the fact that microbial producers can efficiently export their product to the extracellular environment, reaching high product titers. Glycolipid biosynthetic genes are often found in a dedicated cluster, amidst which genes encoding a dedicated transporter committed to shuttle the glycolipid to the extracellular environment are often found, as is the case for many other secondary metabolites. Knowing this, one can rely on gene clustering features to screen for novel putative transporters, as described and performed in this review. The above strategy proves to be very powerful to identify glycolipid transporters in fungi but is less valid for bacterial systems. Indeed, the genetics of these export systems are currently largely unknown, but some hints are given. Apart from the direct export of the glycolipid, several other transport systems have an indirect effect on glycolipid production. Specific importers dictate which hydrophilic and hydrophobic substrates can be used for production and influence the final yields. In eukaryotes, cellular compartmentalization allows the assembly of glycolipid building blocks in a highly specialized and efficient way. Yet, this requires controlled transport across intracellular membranes. Next to the direct export of glycolipids, the current state of the art regarding this indirect involvement of transporter systems in microbial glycolipid synthesis is summarized in this review.