Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology

, Volume 89, Issue 5, pp 1611–1619 | Cite as

Growth and polyhydroxybutyrate production by Ralstonia eutropha in emulsified plant oil medium

  • Charles F. Budde
  • Sebastian L. Riedel
  • Florian Hübner
  • Stefan Risch
  • Milan K. Popović
  • ChoKyun Rha
  • Anthony J. SinskeyEmail author
Applied Microbial and Cell Physiology


Polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) are natural polyesters synthesized by bacteria for carbon and energy storage that also have commercial potential as bioplastics. One promising class of carbon feedstocks for industrial PHA production is plant oils, due to the high carbon content of these compounds. The bacterium Ralstonia eutropha accumulates high levels of PHA and can effectively utilize plant oil. Growth experiments that include plant oil, however, are difficult to conduct in a quantitative and reproducible manner due to the heterogeneity of the two-phase medium. In order to overcome this obstacle, a new culture method was developed in which palm oil was emulsified in growth medium using the glycoprotein gum arabic as the emulsifying agent. Gum arabic did not influence R. eutropha growth and could not be used as a nutrient source by the bacteria. R. eutropha was grown in the emulsified oil medium and PHA production was measured over time. Additionally, an extraction method was developed to monitor oil consumption. The new method described in this study allows quantitative, reproducible R. eutropha experiments to be performed with plant oils. The method may also prove useful for studying growth of different bacteria on plant oils and other hydrophobic carbon sources.


Ralstonia eutropha Polyhydroxyalkanoate Polyhydroxybutyrate Plant oil Palm oil 



The authors thank Tony DeBono for assistance with TLC experiments. This work was funded by the Malaysia MIT Biotechnology Partnership Programme (MMBPP). We thank our MMBPP collaborators for helpful discussions throughout the course of this study.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Charles F. Budde
    • 1
  • Sebastian L. Riedel
    • 2
  • Florian Hübner
    • 3
  • Stefan Risch
    • 3
  • Milan K. Popović
    • 3
  • ChoKyun Rha
    • 4
  • Anthony J. Sinskey
    • 2
    • 5
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Chemical EngineeringMassachusetts Institute of TechnologyCambridgeUSA
  2. 2.Department of BiologyMassachusetts Institute of TechnologyCambridgeUSA
  3. 3.Department of BiotechnologyBeuth Hochschule für Technik BerlinBerlinGermany
  4. 4.Biomaterials Science and Engineering LaboratoryMassachusetts Institute of TechnologyCambridgeUSA
  5. 5.Division of Health Sciences and TechnologyMassachusetts Institute of TechnologyCambridgeUSA

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