Reactor microbiome enriches vegetable oil with n-caproate and n-caprylate for potential functionalized feed additive production via extractive lactate-based chain elongation

Carlos A. Contreras-Dávila, Norwin Zuidema, Cees J.N. Buisman, David P.B.T.B. Strik*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background: Biotechnological processes for efficient resource recovery from residual materials rely on complex conversions carried out by reactor microbiomes. Chain elongation microbiomes produce valuable medium-chain carboxylates (MCC) that can be used as biobased starting materials in the chemical, agriculture and food industry. In this study, sunflower oil is used as an application-compatible solvent to accumulate microbially produced MCC during extractive lactate-based chain elongation. The MCC-enriched solvent is harvested as a potential novel product for direct application without further MCC purification, e.g., direct use for animal nutrition. Sunflower oil biocompatibility, in situ extraction performance and effects on chain elongation were evaluated in batch and continuous experiments. Microbial community composition and dynamics of continuous experiments were analyzed based on 16S rRNA gene sequencing data. Potential applications of MCC-enriched solvents along with future research directions are discussed. Results: Sunflower oil showed high MCC extraction specificity and similar biocompatibility to oleyl alcohol in batch extractive fermentation of lactate and food waste. Continuous chain elongation microbiomes produced the MCC n-caproate (nC6) and n-caprylate (nC8) from l-lactate and acetate at pH 5.0 standing high undissociated n-caproic acid concentrations (3 g L−1). Extractive chain elongation with sunflower oil relieved apparent toxicity of MCC and production rates and selectivities reached maximum values of 5.16 ± 0.41 g nC6 L−1 d−1 (MCC: 11.5 g COD L−1 d−1) and 84 ± 5% (e eq MCC per e eq products), respectively. MCC were selectively enriched in sunflower oil to concentrations up to 72 g nC6 L−1 and 3 g nC8 L−1, equivalent to 8.3 wt% in MCC-enriched sunflower oil. Fermentation at pH 7.0 produced propionate and n-butyrate instead of MCC. Sunflower oil showed stable linoleic and oleic acids composition during extractive chain elongation regardless of pH conditions. Reactor microbiomes showed reduced diversity at pH 5.0 with MCC production linked to Caproiciproducens co-occurring with Clostridiumtyrobutyricum, Clostridiumluticellarii and Lactobacillus species. Abundant taxa at pH 7.0 were Anaerotignum, Lachnospiraceae and Sporoanaerobacter. Conclusions: Sunflower oil is a suitable biobased solvent to selectively concentrate MCC. Extractive reactor microbiomes produced MCC with improved selectivity and production rate, while downstream processing complexity was reduced. Potential applications of MCC-enriched solvents may include feed, food and biofuels purposes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number232
JournalBiotechnology for Biofuels
Publication statusPublished - 6 Dec 2021


  • Caproiciproducens
  • Extractive chain elongation
  • Lactate
  • Liquid–liquid extraction
  • Medium-chain carboxylates
  • Microbiome engineering
  • Oleyl alcohol
  • Reactor microbiomes
  • Sunflower oil


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