World Journal of Microbiology and Biotechnology

, Volume 28, Issue 2, pp 401-419

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Why do microorganisms produce rhamnolipids?

  • Łukasz ChrzanowskiAffiliated withInstitute of Chemical Technology and Engineering, Poznan University of Technology Email author 
  • , Łukasz ŁawniczakAffiliated withInstitute of Chemical Technology and Engineering, Poznan University of Technology
  • , Katarzyna CzaczykAffiliated withDepartment of Biotechnology and Food Microbiology, Poznan University of Life Sciences


We review the environmental role of rhamnolipids in terms of microbial life and activity. A large number of previous research supports the idea that these glycolipids mediate the uptake of hydrophobic substrates by bacterial cells. This feature might be of highest priority for bioremediation of spilled hydrocarbons. However, current evidence confirms that rhamnolipids primarily play a role in surface-associated modes of bacterial motility and are involved in biofilm development. This might be an explanation why no direct pattern of hydrocarbon degradation was often observed after rhamnolipids supplementation. This review gives insight into the current state of knowledge on how rhamnolipids operate in the microbial world.


Bacterial motility Biodegradation Biofilm Biosurfactant Cell surface hydrophobicity Pseudomonas aeruginosa Rhamnolipids