Yarrowia lipolytica: a model yeast for citric acid production

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Every year more than 2 million tons of citric acid (CA) are produced around the world for industrial uses. Although initially extracted from citrus, the low profitability of the process and the increasing demand soon stimulated the search for more efficient methods to produce CA. Currently, most world CA demand (99%) is satisfied by fermentations with microorganisms, especially filamentous fungi and yeasts. CA production with yeasts has certain advantages over molds (e.g. higher productivity and easier cultivation), which in the last two decades have triggered a clear increase in publications and patents devoted to the use of yeasts in this field. Yarrowia lipolytica has become a model yeast that proved to be successful in different production systems. Considering the current interest evidenced in the literature, the most significant information on CA production using Y. lipolytica is summarized. The relevance on CA yields of key factors such as strains, media formulation, environmental conditions and production regimes is thoroughly discussed, with particular focus on increasing CA productivity. Besides, the possibility of tuning the mentioned variables to reduce concomitant isocitric acid production—the biggest disadvantage of using yeasts—is analyzed. Available methods for CA purification/quantification are also discussed.

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