, Volume 85, Issue 1, pp 13-25
Date: 28 Aug 2009

Microbial formation of esters

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Small aliphatic esters are important natural flavor and fragrance compounds and have numerous uses as solvents and as chemical intermediates. Besides the chemical or lipase-catalyzed formation of esters from alcohols and organic acids, small volatile esters are made by several biochemical routes in microbes. This short review will cover the biosynthesis of esters from acyl-CoA and alcohol condensation, from oxidation of hemiacetals formed from aldehydes and alcohols, and from the insertion of oxygen adjacent to the carbonyl group in a straight chain or cyclic ketone by Baeyer–Villiger monooxygenases. The physiological role of the ester-forming reactions can allow degradation of ketones for use as a carbon source and may play a role in detoxification of aldehydes or recycling cofactors. The enzymes catalyzing each of these processes have been isolated and characterized, and a number of genes encoding the proteins from various microbes have been cloned and functionally expressed. The use of these ester-forming organisms or recombinant organisms expressing the appropriate genes as biocatalysts in biotechnology to make specific esters and chiral lactones has been studied in recent years.