12 January - 20 June 2016

Bacteria could be a breakthrough source of new terpenes

15 January 2015

A recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences’ (PNAS), has unveiled a potential new source of terpenes for the food industry. Terpenes, aromatic hydrocarbons that are used by the food industry as aroma and flavour additions are usually derived from a plant or fungal origin. However recent discoveries by researchers led by Professor David Cane of Brown University has shown that a previously untapped resource of these valuable products is bacteria. This is not entirely unexpected as bacteria have been known to produce terpenes for a number of years, and terpenes are the building blocks for numerous forms of life and chemicals, but the scale and the ability to exploit this source was not proven until now.

Using their knowledge of bacterial genomes the team was able to search for genetic sequences that were more likely to produce terpene synthase enzymes and exploit these targeted sequences. The investigation yielded results of 262 potential gene sequences that led to 13 new terpenes being produced which are not previously known from plant or fungal sources, in addition to many known terpenes. 

This targeted approach will in future allow researchers to search bacterial genomes for sequences they know are most likely to produce terpenes, rather than having to search with plant or fungal sequences, or as Professor Cane said ”fishing in the right waters with the right kind of bait”
The desired gene sequences the researchers wanted to be expressed were spliced into a genetically modified Streptomyces bacterium that was used as a bio-factory of sorts to express the gene and produce the resultant compound. These compounds were then analysed by Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) and Mass Spectroscopy to confirm their structure. This discovery has implications that are widespread for the food industry with terpenes having potential uses as active ingredients in natural pesticides as well as aroma and flavour in essential oils and food products. [Proceedings of the National Academy of Science]

share this article
RSSL endeavours to check the veracity of news stories cited in this free e-mail bulletin by referring to the primary source, but cannot be held responsible for inaccuracies in the articles so published. RSSL provides links to other World Wide Web sites as a convenience to users, but cannot be held responsible for the content or availability of these sites. This document may be copied and distributed provided the source is cited as RSSL's Food e-News and the information so distributed is not used for profit.

Previous editions

Load more editions

Make an Enquiry