London, May 10:
Scientists have developed an inexpensive way of producing a hugely expensive natural compound, found only in minute quantities in grapefruits and used as a high-quality flavouring substance in soft and lifestyle drinks worldwide.
The substance called Nootkatone, that costs Rs.2.5 lakh per kg, has now been derived from sugar using yeast cells at just Rs.70 per kg.
Ultimately, the aroma found in one grapefruit leads to millions of litres of tasty juice.
“We have installed new genetic information in the yeast Pichia pastoris so that our cells are able to produce Nootkatone from sugar,” said Tamara Wriessnegger from the Austrian Centre of Industrial Biotechnology (ACIB) in a statement.
The genome of the yeast cells has been extended with four foreign genes. With the help of the new genes, the yeast is capable to synthesise the high-prized, natural flavour in a cheap way and in useful quantities from sugar (Rs.70 per kg).
Nootkatone is also an important substance for the food, pharmaceutical and chemical industries.
As an insecticide, it is effective against ticks, mosquitoes or bedbugs. In the medical field, the substance has shown activity against cancer cell lines.
In cosmetics, people appreciate the good smell and in soft drinks a fine, subtle taste.
“Because the natural sources cannot meet the demands, the new method replaces chemical synthesis — an energy-consuming and anything but environmentally friendly process,” Wriessnegger added.
With the new method, the important and expensive Nootkatone can be produced industrially in an environmentally friendly, economical and resource-saving way in useful quantities, the statement read. (IANS)