Research Topic

Biotechnological Production and Conversion of Aromatic Compounds and Natural Products

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Aromatics have great potential for bio-based production, as biochemical pathways like the polyketide biosynthesis or the shikimate pathway give rise to a wealth of aromatics and aromatics-derived compounds, with diverse applications in the chemical-, pharma-, cosmetic- and food-industry.

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Aromatics have great potential for bio-based production, as biochemical pathways like the polyketide biosynthesis or the shikimate pathway give rise to a wealth of aromatics and aromatics-derived compounds, with diverse applications in the chemical-, pharma-, cosmetic- and food-industry.

Building blocks of aromatics nature are among the most important bulk feedstocks in the chemical industry, serving mainly as precursors for polymeric materials. As these compounds are commonly derived from petrochemistry, obtaining them is increasingly becoming a matter of costs and sustainability. Biochemistry gives rise to a wealth of compounds that can potentially substitute or replace current petroleum-based chemicals or be used for novel applications. This includes bio-replacements for commonly fossil fuel-derived aromatics, as well as naturally produced secondary metabolites.

Also, a great number of natural products and secondary metabolites, which are valuable in food- and pharma-industry, are aromatics. Furthermore, for fine chemicals and pharmaceuticals, which need to be produced with high purity or selectivity, cost-competitiveness is much less of a critical factor. This is a particular chance for biotechnology, especially for compounds, which are impossible or infeasible to produce via chemical synthesis.

To achieve commercial viability, processes need to be competitive, as determined by the three factors: titer, yield and rate. Therefore, in addition to metabolic engineering, optimization of the process is also imperative, comprised of reactor-design and -operation.
Aromatic compounds of interest may be produced microbially outgoing from sugar-based carbon-sources, while many pharmaceutically utilized natural products are still plant-derived. To supply the growing demand of many of these products while ensuring affordability, as well as to uphold a constant supply chain (tolerant to environmental factors such as weather and climate), heterologous production of natural products in microbes is sought after. For sustainability reasons, as well as a potential cost advantage, biotechnology is also increasingly adapting non-edible carbon-sources for production. This can be lignocellulosic biomass, of which the lignin part is especially attractive for production of aromatics, as it can be de-polymerized to directly obtain aromatic compounds. In this context, the degradation and recycling of spend materials, like polyethylene terephthalate, is also of interest, not only to achieve sustainability but also for environmental protection.

This Research Topic strives to give an overview of the current state of the art in biotechnological production of aromatic compounds, and where the field is headed. Topics can focus on development of genetic circuits, metabolic engineering approaches as well as process development and optimization, including degradation, conversion and valorisation of bio-products into goods and feedstocks for industry.


Keywords: aromatics, shikimate-pathway, natural products, metabolic engineering, degradation


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