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Urea and urine are a viable and cost-effective nitrogen source for Yarrowia lipolytica biomass and lipid accumulation


Yarrowia lipolytica is an industrial yeast that has been used in the sustainable production of fatty acid-derived and lipid compounds due to its high growth capacity, genetic tractability, and oleaginous properties. This investigation examines the possibility of utilizing urea or urine as an alternative to ammonium sulfate as a nitrogen source to culture Y. lipolytica. The use of a stoichiometrically equivalent concentration of urea in lieu of ammonium sulfate significantly increased cell growth when glucose was used as the carbon source. Furthermore, Y. lipolytica growth was equally improved when grown with synthetic urine and real human urine. Equivalent or better lipid production was achieved when cells are grown on urea or urine. The successful use of urea and urine as nitrogen sources for Y. lipolytica growth highlights the potential of using cheaper media components as well as exploiting and recycling non-treated human waste streams for biotechnology processes.

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The authors would like to acknowledge Dr. David Bruce for access to GC-FID and Dr. Rodrigo Martinez Duarte for access to BSL-2 biosafety cabinet for human urine experiments. The authors would also like to acknowledge Dr. Difeng Gao for creating the ∆pex10 strain that was used in this study.


This work was supported by an Early Career Faculty Award from NASA’s Space Technology Research Grants Program (#NNX15AU46G) to MAB, the US National Science Foundation (CBET-1403099) to MAB, an Undergraduate Research Fellowship from the SC Space Grant Consortium, and Clemson University Creative Inquiry.

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Correspondence to Mark A. Blenner.

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This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.

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Brabender, M., Hussain, M.S., Rodriguez, G. et al. Urea and urine are a viable and cost-effective nitrogen source for Yarrowia lipolytica biomass and lipid accumulation. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol 102, 2313–2322 (2018).

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  • Yarrowia lipolytica
  • Urea
  • Urine
  • Nitrogen
  • Metabolism