Bioprocess and Biosystems Engineering

, Volume 39, Issue 12, pp 1825–1837 | Cite as

Selective recovery of acidic and lactonic sophorolipids from culture broths towards the improvement of their therapeutic potential

  • Isabel A. C. Ribeiro
  • M. Rosário Bronze
  • Matilde F. Castro
  • Maria H. L. RibeiroEmail author
Original Paper


Sophorolipids (SLs) were produced by Starmerella bombicola. The separation and purification of SLs are a complex process, since they are produced as a mixture of compounds with few structural differences. Solvent extraction is commonly used in downstream processing. In this work, an environmental friendly approach was developed for SLs recovery and purification, based on neutral polymeric sorbents, Amberlite XAD16NTM, XAD18TM, and XAD1600NTM. In batch microassays, key parameters of sorption/desorption process (e.g., contact time, temperature, sorbents, and SLs concentrations) were optimized for separation of acidic and lactonic SLs. Sorption equilibrium was reached after 2–3 h, for all the sorbents tested. Among them XAD1600NTM showed a higher sorption capacity (q max 230 mg g−1), a higher removal (≈100 %) of acidic and lactonic SLs [1 and 2.5 % (w/v)], and the best selectivity. Methanol, ethanol, and acetone were suitable for SLs elution. A selective desorption of SLs was attained with acetonitrile aqueous solutions (v/v): (1) 25 % led to 88.3 % of acidic SLs and (2) 55 % followed by methanol solution (100 %) led to 93.2 % of purified lactonic SLs. This achievement was particularly important regarding SLs potential therapeutic applications, since acidic and lactonic SLs show different biologic activities. In fact, acid SLs show higher virucidal and pro-inflammatory cytokine activity, while lactonic SLs show stronger spermicidal and anti-cancer activity.


Acidic and lactonic sophorolipids Starmerella bombicola Sorption Neutral polymeric resins 



This research was supported by the Fundação Ciência e Tecnologia  (FCT) strategic project: PEst-OE/SAU/UI4013/2011. The authors are grateful to FCT for funding the project REDE/1518/REM/2005 that allowed the HPLC–MS analysis.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Isabel A. C. Ribeiro
    • 1
    • 2
  • M. Rosário Bronze
    • 2
    • 3
  • Matilde F. Castro
    • 1
    • 2
  • Maria H. L. Ribeiro
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Research Institute for Medicines (iMedULisboa), Faculty of PharmacyUniversidade de LisboaLisbonPortugal
  2. 2.Faculty of PharmacyUniversidade de LisboaLisbonPortugal
  3. 3.Instituto de Tecnologia Química e BiológicaOeirasPortugal

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