The journey of nisin development in China, a natural-green food preservative
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KeywordsForeign Company Biosynthetic Gene Cluster Clostridium Botulinum Food Preservative Technique Foundation
In 2005, the project “Research and Development of Nisin” led by Prof. Liandong Huan was awarded the National Science & Technology Progress Prize (Second Class Prize) and China National Food Industry Association (CNFIA) Science & Technology Prize (Special Prize).
The process of research and development of nisin was tortuous. At first, the product was too advanced and expensive to people, leading to poor sales. The Silver-Elephant company was also in serious trouble with financing. Meanwhile, the institute gave a great deal of trust and support, rejecting the requests to sell the intellectual property from many domestic and foreign companies. Moreover, nisin appeared to have a limited scope of application during the development. However, with the institute inviting experts of other institutions to participate in the application tests of nisin, the application of nisin in low temperature meat products, dairy products, and canned food was accelerated. Eventually, many well-known food companies such as Shuanghui, Wahaha, Sanyuan, and Huiyuan, became fixed clients.
The success of research and development of nisin was attributed to a hard-working team and the fruits of their labour resulted from the effort of several generations of scientists. Prof. Yugu Xue, the pioneering and leading scientist at nearly seventy-years old, continued to make outstanding contributions to the project and Associate Prof. Xiuzhu Chen (Fig. 3) devoted many hours of her free-time to lead the staffs from the Silver-Elephant company to solve production problems. After untold hardships, the fermentation titer was increased from 3000 units to over 8000 units per milliliter. The work reached the leading level at home and abroad and made a great step forward for the research and development of nisin. Besides, many graduate students also contributed to the project. For example, Ying Cai was involved in the establishment of method to directly screen the producing strain of nisin; Haiqing Hu cloned the complete gene cluster of nisin; Jing Yuan constructed nisin mutants with broader antimicrobial spectra (Yuan et al., 2004), and so on. The related work on nisin has been published in more than 30 research papers and obtained 5 authorized national invention patents.
The research and development of nisin is still going on in IMCAS. On the basis of previous work, the group led by Prof. Jin Zhong (Fig. 3) has clarified the structure-activity relationships, the mode of action, and the resistance mechanism of nisin (Sun et al., 2009). They also have worked on the resolution of the biosynthetic machinery, especially the self-induction molecular mechanism (Teng et al., 2014). Additionally, they have exploited many potential lantibiotics from microbial resources or genomic resources. All these works will benefit the wide application of nisin-like active substances in food, medicine, and other fields.
- Huan LD, Chen XZ, Cai Y, Zhuang ZH, Xue YG (1997) Directional screening of nisin-producing Lactococcus lactis and identification of its product. Acta Microbiol Sin 37:292–300. (还连栋, 陈秀珠, 才迎, 庄增辉, 薛禹谷. (1997). 乳链菌肽产生菌的定向筛选及发酵产物的鉴定. 微生物学报, 37, 292–300)Google Scholar
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