Pinene is a secondary plant metabolite that has functional properties as a flavor additive as well as potential cognitive health benefits. Although pinene is present in low concentrations in several plants, it is possible to engineer microorganisms to produce pinene. However, feedstock cost is currently limiting the industrial scale-up of microbial pinene production. One potential solution is to leverage waste streams such as whey permeate as an alternative to expensive feedstocks. Whey permeate is a sterile-filtered dairy effluent that contains 4.5% weight/weight lactose, and it must be processed or disposed of due its high biochemical oxygen demand, often at significant cost to the producer. Approximately 180 million m3
of whey is produced annually in the U.S., and only half of this quantity receives additional processing for the recovery of lactose. Given that organisms such as recombinant Escherichia coli
grow on untreated whey permeate, there is an opportunity for dairy producers to microbially produce pinene and reduce the biological oxygen demand of whey permeate via microbial lactose consumption. The process would convert a waste stream into a valuable coproduct. This review examines the current approaches for microbial pinene production, and the suitability of whey permeate as a medium for microbial pinene production.
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