PatentDe  


Dokumentenidentifikation EP1707055 16.11.2006
EP-Veröffentlichungsnummer 0001707055
Titel Verstaerkte Produktion von Lipiden enthaltend mehrfachungesaettigte Fettsaeuren durch hochdichte Kulturen von eukariotischen Mikroben in Gaervorrichtung
Anmelder Martek Biosciences Corp., Columbia, Md., US
Erfinder Bailey, Richard B, Del Mar, California, 92014, US;
Dimasi, Don, San Diego, California, 92129, US;
Hansen, Jon M, Chula Vista, California, 91910, US;
Mirrasoul, Peter J, San Diego, California, 92107, US;
Ruecker, Craig M, San Diego, California, 92129, US;
Veeder, George T III, Ramona, California, 92065, US;
Kaneko, Tatsuo, San Diego, California, 92126, US;
Barclay, William R., Boulder, Colorado, 80303, US
Vertreter derzeit kein Vertreter bestellt
Vertragsstaaten AT, BE, CH, CY, DE, DK, ES, FI, FR, GB, GR, IE, IT, LI, LU, MC, NL, PT, SE, TR
Sprache des Dokument EN
EP-Anmeldetag 26.01.2001
EP-Aktenzeichen 060760873
EP-Offenlegungsdatum 04.10.2006
Veröffentlichungstag im Patentblatt 16.11.2006
IPC-Hauptklasse A23B 7/10(2006.01)A, F, I, 20060905, B, H, EP

Beschreibung[en]
FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention is directed to a novel process for growing microorganisms and recovering microbial lipids. In particular, the present invention is directed to producing microbial polyunsaturated lipids.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Production of polyenoic fatty acids (fatty acids containing 2 or more unsaturated carbon-carbon bonds) in eukaryotic microorganisms has been generally believed to require the presence of molecular oxygen (i.e., aerobic conditions). This is because it is believed that the cis double bond formed in the fatty acids of all non-parasitic eukaryotic microorganisms involves a direct oxygen-dependent desaturation reaction (oxidative microbial desaturase systems). Other eukaryotic microbial lipids that are known to require molecular oxygen include fungal and plant sterols, oxycarotenoids (i.e., xanthophylls), ubiquinones, and compounds made from any of these lipids (i.e., secondary metabolites).

Certain eukaryotic microbes (such as algae; fungi, including yeast; and protists) have been demonstrated to be good producers ofpolyenoic fatty acids in fermentors. However, very high density cultivation (greater than about 100 g/L microbial biomass, especially at commercial scale) can lead to decreased polyenoic fatty acid contents and hence decreased polyenoic fatty acid productivity. This may be due in part to several factors including the difficulty of maintaining high dissolved oxygen levels due to the high oxygen demand developed by the high concentration of microbes in the fermentation broth. Methods to maintain higher dissolved oxygen level include increasing the aeration rate and/or using pure oxygen instead of air for aeration and/or increasing the agitation rate in the fermentor. These solutions generally increase the cost of lipid production and capital cost of fermentation equipment, and can cause additional problems. For example, increased aeration can easily lead to severe foaming problems in the fermentor at high cell densities and increased mixing can lead to microbial cell breakage due to increased shear forces in the fermentation broth (this causes the lipids to be released in the fermentation broth where they can become oxidized and/or degraded by enzymes). Microbial cell breakage is an increased problem in cells that have undergone nitrogen limitation or depletion to induce lipid formation, resulting in weaker cell walls.

As a result, when lipid-producing eukaryotic microbes are grown at very high cell concentrations, their lipids generally contain only very small amounts of polyenoic fatty acids. For example, the yeast Lipomyces starkeyi has been grown to a density of 153 g/L with resulting lipid concentration of 83 g/L in 140 hours using alcohol as a carbon source. Yet the polyenoic fatty acid content of the yeast at concentration greater than 100 g/L averaged only 4.2% of total fatty acids (dropping from a high of 11.5% of total fatty acid at a cell density of 20-30 g/L). Yamauchi et al., J. Ferment. Technol., 1983, 61, 275-280 . This results in a polyenoic fatty acid concentration of only about 3.5 g/L and an average polyenoic fatty acid productivity of only about 0.025 g/L/hr. Additionally, the only polyenoic fatty acid reported in the yeast lipids was C18:2.

Another yeast, Rhodotorula glutinus, has been demonstrated to have an average lipid productivity of about 0.49 g/L/hr, but also a low overall polyenoic fatty acid content in its lipids (15.8% of total fatty acids, 14.7% C18:2 and 1.2% C18:3) resulting in a polyenoic fatty acid productivity in fed-batch culture of only about 0.047 g/L/hr and 0.077 g/L/hr in continuous culture.

One of the present inventors has previously demonstrated that certain marine microalgae in the order Thraustochytriales can be excellent producers of polyenoic fatty acids in fermentors, especially when grown at low salinity levels and especially at very low chloride levels. Others have described Thraustochytrids that exhibit an average polyenoic fatty acid (DHA, C22:6n-3; and DPA, C22:5n-6) productivity of about 0.158 g/L/hr, when grown to cell density of 59 g/L in 120 hours. However, this productivity was only achieved at a salinity of about 50% seawater, a concentration that would cause serious corrosion in conventional stainless steel fermentors.

Costs of producing microbial lipids containing polyenoic fatty acids, and especially the highly unsaturated fatty acids, such as C18:4n-3, C20:4n-6, C20:5n3, C22:5n-3, C22:5n-6 and C22:6n-3, have remained high in part due to the limited densities to which the high polyenoic fatty acid containing eukaryotic microbes have been grown and the limited oxygen availability both at these high cell concentrations and the higher temperatures needed to achieve high productivity.

Therefore, there is a need for a process for growing microorganisms at high concentration which still facilitates increased production of lipids containing polyenoic fatty acids.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention provides a process for growing eukaryotic microorganisms that are capable of producing at least about 20% of their biomass as lipids and a method for producing the lipids. Preferably the lipids contain one or more polyenoic fatty acids. The process comprises adding to a fermentation medium comprising eukaryotic microorganisms a carbon source, preferably a non-alcohol carbon source, and a limiting nutrient source. Preferably, the carbon source and the limiting nutrient source are added at a rate sufficient to increase the biomass density of the fermentation medium to at least about 100 g/L.

In one aspect of the present invention, the fermentation condition comprises a biomass density increasing stage and a lipid production stage, wherein the biomass density increasing stage comprises adding the carbon source and the limiting nutrient source, and the lipid production stage comprises adding the carbon source without adding the limiting nutrient source to create conditions which induce lipid production.

In another aspect of the present invention, the amount of dissolved oxygen present in the fermentation medium during the lipid production stage is lower than the amount of dissolved oxygen present in the fermentation medium during the biomass density increasing stage.

In yet another aspect of the present invention, microorganisms are selected from the group consisting of algae, fungi (including yeasts), protists, bacteria, and mixtures thereof, wherein the microorganisms are capable of producing polyenoic fatty acids or other lipids that had been generally believed to require molecular oxygen for their synthesis. Particularly useful microorganisms of the present invention are eukaryotic microorganisms that are capable of producing lipids at a fermentation medium oxygen level of about less than 3% of saturation.

In still another aspect of the present invention, microorganisms are grown in a fed-batch process.

Yet still another aspect of the present invention provides maintaining an oxygen level of less than about 3% of saturation in the fermentation medium during the second half of the fermentation process.

Another embodiment of the present invention provides a process for producing eukaryotic microbial lipids comprising:

  • (a) growing eukaryotic microorganisms in a fermentation medium to increase the biomass density of said fermentation medium to at least about 100 g/L;
  • (b) providing fermentation conditions sufficient to allow said microorganisms to produce said lipids; and
  • (c) recovering said lipids,
wherein greater than about 15% of said lipids are polyunsaturated lipids.

Another aspect of the present invention provides a lipid recovery process that comprises:

  • (d) removing water from said fermentation medium to provide dry microorganisms; and
  • (e) isolating said lipids from said dry microorganisms.

Preferably, the water removal step comprises contacting the fermentation medium directly on a drum-dryer without prior centrifugation.

Another aspect of the present invention provides a lipid recovery process that comprises:

  • (d) treating the fermentation broth to permeabilize, lyse or rupture the microbial cells; and
  • (e) recovering the lipids from the fermentation broth by gravity separation, and preferably centrifugation, with or without the aid of a water-soluble solvent to aid in breaking the lipid/water emulsion.

Preferably, the microbial cells are treated in step (c) in a fermentor or a similar vessel.

In a further aspect of the present invention, a method for enriching the polyenoic fatty acid content of a microorganism is provided. The method includes fermenting the microorganisms in a growth medium having a level of dissolved oxygen of less than 10%.

A further aspect of the invention is a heterotrophic process for producing products and microorganisms. The process includes culturing the microorganisms containing polyketide synthase genes in a growth medium and maintaining the level of dissolved oxygen in the culture at less than about 10 percent.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

  • Figure 1 is a table and a plot of various lipid production parameters of a microorganism versus the amount of dissolved oxygen in a fermentation medium.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

The present invention provides a process for growing microorganisms, such as, for example, algae, fungi (including yeast), protists, and bacteria. Preferably, microorganisms are selected from the group consisting of algae, protists and mixtures thereof. More preferably, microorganisms are algae. Moreover, the process of the present invention can be used to produce a variety of lipid compounds, in particular unsaturated lipids, preferably polyunsaturated lipids (i.e., lipids containing at least 2 unsaturated carbon-carbon bonds, e.g., double bonds), and more preferably highly unsaturated lipids (i.e., lipids containing 4 or more unsaturated carbon-carbon bonds) such as omega-3 and/or omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids, including docosahexaenoic acid (i.e., DHA); and other naturally occurring unsaturated, polyunsaturated and highly unsaturated compounds. As used herein, the term "lipid" includes phospholipids; free fatty acids; esters of fatty acids; triacylglycerols; sterols and sterol esters; carotenoids; xanthophylls (e.g., oxycarotenoids); hydrocarbons; isoprenoid-derived compounds and other lipids known to one of ordinary skill in the art.

More particularly, processes of the present invention are useful in producing eukaryotic microbial polyenoic fatty acids, carotenoids, fungal sterols, phytosterols, xanthophylls, ubiquinones, and other isoprenoid-derived compounds which had been generally believed to require oxygen for producing unsaturated carbon-carbon bonds (i.e., aerobic conditions), and secondary metabolites thereof. Specifically, processes of the present invention are useful in growing microorganisms that produce polyenoic fatty acid(s), and for producing microbial polyenoic fatty acid(s).

While processes of the present invention can be used to grow a wide variety of microorganisms and to obtain polyunsaturated lipid containing compounds produced by the same, for the sake of brevity, convenience and illustration, this detailed description of the invention will discuss processes for growing microorganisms which are capable of producing lipids comprising omega-3 and/or omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids, in particular microorganisms that are capable of producing DHA (or closely related compounds such as DPA, EPA or ARA). Preferred microorganisms include microalgae, fungi (including yeast), protists and bacteria. One group of preferred microorganisms is the members of the microbial group called Stramenopiles which includes microalgae and algae-like microorganisms. The Stramenopiles include the following groups of microorganisms: Hamatores, Proteromonads, Opalines, Developayella, Diplophrys, Labrinthulids, Thraustochytrids, Biosecids, Oomycetes, Hypochytridiomycetes, Commation, Reticulosphaera, Pelagomonas, Pelagococcus, Ollicola, Aureococcus, Parmales, Diatoms, Xanthophytes, Phaeophytes (brown algae), Eustigmatophytes, Raphidophytes, Synurids, Axodines (including Rhizochromulinaales, Pedinellales, Dictyochales), Chrysomeridales, Sarcinochrysidales, Hydrurales, Hibberdiales, and Chromulinales. Other preferred groups of microalgae include the members of the green algae and dinoflagellates, including members of the genus Crypthecodium. More particularly, preferred embodiments of the present invention will be discussed with reference to a process for growing marine microorganisms, in particular algae, such as Thraustochytrids of the order Thraustochytriales, more specifically Thraustochytriales of the genus Thraustochytrium and Schizochytrium, including Thraustochytriales which are disclosed in commonly assigned U.S. Patent Nos. 5,340,594 and 5,340,742, both issued to Barclay , all of which are incorporated herein by reference in their entirety. It should be noted that many experts agree that Ulkenia is not a separate genus, but is in fact part of the genus Schizochytrium. As used herein, the genus Schizochytrium will include Ulkenia.

Preferred microorganisms are those that produce the compounds of interest via polyketide synthase systems. Such microorganisms include microorganisms having an endogenous polyketide synthase system and microorganisms into which a polyketide synthase system has been genetically engineered. Polyketides are structurally diverse natural products that have a wide range of biological activities, including antibiotic and pharmacological properties. Biosynthesis of the carbon chain backbone of polyketides is catalyzed by polyketide synthases. Like the structurally and mechanistically related fatty acid synthases, polyketide synthases catalyze the repeated decarboxylative condensations between acyl thioesters that extend the carbon chain two carbons at a time. However, unlike fatty acid synthases, polyketide synthases can generate great structural variability in the end product. Individual polyketide synthase systems can do this by using starting units other than acetate, by utilizing methyl- or ethyl-malonate as the extending unit and by varying the reductive cycle of ketoreduction, dehydration and enoyl reduction on the beta-keto group formed after each condensation. Of particular interest here is that the carbon-carbon double bonds that are introduced by the dehydration step can be retained in the end product. Further, although these double bonds are initially in the trans configuration, they can be converted to the cis configuration found in DHA (and other polyenoic fatty acids of interest) by enzymatic isomerization. Both the dehydrase and isomerization reactions can occur in the absence of molecular oxygen.

Preferably, in accordance with the present invention a heterotrophic process is provided for producing products and microorganisms. The process preferably comprises culturing the microorganisms in a growth medium wherein the microorganisms contain a polyketide synthase system. Preferably, the level of dissolved oxygen is maintained at less than about 8 percent, more preferably at less than about 4 percent, more preferably at less than about 3 percent, and more preferably at less than about 1 percent.

It is to be understood, however, that the invention as a whole is not intended to be so limited, and that one skilled in the art will recognize that the concept of the present invention will be applicable to other microorganisms producing a variety of other compounds, including other lipid compositions, in accordance with the techniques discussed herein.

Assuming a relatively constant production rate of lipids by an algae, it is readily apparent that the higher biomass density will lead to a higher total amount of lipids being produced per volume. Current conventional fermentation processes for growing algae yield a biomass density of from about 50 to about 80 g/L or less. The present inventors have found that by using processes of the present invention, a significantly higher biomass density than currently known biomass density can be achieved. Preferably, processes of the present invention produces biomass density of at least about 100 g/L, more preferably at least about 130 g/L, still more preferably at least about 150 g/L, yet still more preferably at least about 170 g/L, and most preferably greater than 200 g/L. Thus, with such a high biomass density, even if the lipids production rate of algae is decreased slightly, the overall lipids production rate per volume is significantly higher than currently known processes.

Processes of the present invention for growing microorganisms of the order Thraustochytriales include adding a source of carbon and a source of a limiting nutrient to a fermentation medium comprising the microorganisms at a rate sufficient to increase the biomass density of the fermentation medium to those described above. As used herein, the term "limiting nutrient source" refers to a source of a nutrient (including the nutrient itself) essential for the growth of a microorganism in that, when the limiting nutrient is depleted from the growth medium, its absence substantially limits the microorganism from growing or replicating further. However, since the other nutrients are still in abundance, the organism can continue to make and accumulate intracellular and/or extracellular products. By choosing s specific limiting nutrient, one can control the type of products that are accumulated. Therefore, providing a limiting nutrient source at a certain rate allows one to control both the rate of growth of the microorganism and the production or accumulation of desired products (e.g., lipids). This fermentation process, where one or more substrates (e.g., a carbon source and a limiting nutrient source) are added in increments, is generally referred to as a fed-batch fermentation process. It has been found that when the substrate is added to a batch fermentation process the large amount of carbon source present (e.g., about 200 g/L or more per 60 g/L of biomass density) had a detrimental effect on the microorganisms. Without being bound by any theory, it is believed that such a high amount of carbon source causes detrimental effects, including osmotic stress, for microorganisms and inhibits initial productivity of microorganisms. Processes of the present invention avoid this undesired detrimental effect while providing a sufficient amount of the substrate to achieve the above-described biomass density of the microorganisms.

Processes of the present invention for growing microorganisms can include a biomass density increasing stage. In the biomass density increasing stage, the primary objective of the fermentation process is to increase the biomass density in the fermentation medium to obtain the biomass density described above. The rate of carbon source addition is typically maintained at a particular level or range that does not cause a significant detrimental effect on productivity of microorganisms, or the viability of the microorganisms resulting from insufficient capabilities of the fermentation equipment to remove heat from and transfer gases to and from the liquid broth An appropriate range of the amount of carbon source needed for a particular microorganism during a fermentation process is well known to one of ordinary skill in the art. Preferably, a carbon source of the present invention is a non-alcohol carbon source, i.e., a carbon source that does not contain alcohol. As used herein, an "alcohol" refers to a compound having 4 or less carbon atoms with one hydroxy group, e.g., methanol, ethanol and isopropanolbut for the purpose of this invention does not include hydroxy organic acids such as lactic acid and similar compounds. More preferably, a carbon source of the present invention is a carbohydrate, including, but not limited to, fructose, glucose, sucrose, molasses, and starch. Other suitable simple and complex carbon sources and nitrogen sources are disclosed in the above-referenced patents. Typically, however, a carbohydrate, preferably corn syrup, is used as the primary carbon source. Fatty acids, in the form of hydroxy fatty acids, triglycerides, and di- and monoglycerides can also serve as the carbon source

Particularly preferred nitrogen sources are urea, nitrate, nitrite, soy protein, amino acids, protein, corn steep liquor, yeast extract, animal by-products, inorganic ammonium salt, more preferably ammonium salts of sulfate, hydroxide, and most preferably ammonium hydroxide. Other limiting nutrient sources include carbon sources (as defined above), phosphate sources, vitamin sources (such as vitamin B12 sources, pantothenate sources, thiamine sources), and trace metal sources (such as zinc sources, copper sources, cobalt sources, nickel sources, iron sources, manganese sources, molybdenum sources), and major metal sources (such as magnesium sources, calcium sources,, sodium sources, potassium sources, and silica sources, etc.). Trace metal sources and major metal sources can include sulfate and chloride salts of these metals (for example but not limited to MgSO4•7H2O; MnCl2•4H2O; ZnSO4•7H2O; CoCl2•6H2O; Na2MoO4•2H2O; CuSO4•5H2O; NiSO4•6H2O; FeSO4•7H2O; CaCl2; K2SO4; KCl; and Na2SO4).

When ammonium is used as a nitrogen source, the fermentation medium becomes acidic if it is not controlled by base addition or buffers. When ammonium hydroxide is used as the primary nitrogen source, it can also be used to provide a pH control. The microorganisms of the order Thraustochytriales, in particular Thraustochytriales of the genus Thraustochytrium and Schizochytrium, will grow over a wide pH range, e.g., from about pH 5 to about pH 11. A proper pH range for fermentation of a particular microorganism is within the knowledge of one skilled in the art.

Processes of the present invention for growing microorganisms can also include a production stage. In this stage, the primary use of the substrate by the microorganisms is not increasing the biomass density but rather using the substrate to produce lipids. It should be appreciated that lipids are also produced by the microorganisms during the biomass density increasing stage; however, as stated above, the primary goal in the biomass density increasing stage is to increase the biomass density. Typically, during the production stage the addition of the limiting nutrient substrate is reduced or preferably stopped.

It was previously generally believed that the presence of dissolved oxygen in the fermentation medium is crucial in the production of polyunsaturated compounds, including omega-3 and/or omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids, by eukaryotic microorganisms. Thus, a relatively large amount of dissolved oxygen in the fermentation medium was generally believed to be preferred. Surprisingly and unexpectedly, however, the present inventors have found that the production rate of lipids is increased dramatically when the dissolved oxygen level during the production stage is reduced. Thus, while the dissolved oxygen level in the fermentation medium during the biomass density increasing stage is preferably at least about 8% of saturation, and preferably at least about 4% of saturation, during the production stage the dissolved oxygen in the fermentation medium is reduced to about 3% of saturation or less, preferably about 1% of saturation or less, and more preferably about 0% of saturation. At the beginning of the fermentation the DO can be at or near saturation and as the microbes grow it is allowed to drift down to these low DO setpoints. In one particular embodiment of the present invention, the amount of dissolved oxygen level in the fermentation medium is varied during the fermentation process. For example, for a fermentation process with total fermentation time of from about 90 hours to about 100 hours, the dissolved oxygen level in the fermentation medium is maintained at about 8% during the first 24 hours, about 4% from about 24th hour to about 40th hour, and about 0.5% or less from about 40th hour to the end of the fermentation process.

The amount of dissolved oxygen present in the fermentation medium can be controlled by controlling the amount of oxygen in the head-space of the fermentor, or preferably by controlling the speed at which the fermentation medium is agitated (or stirred). For example, a high agitation (or stirring) rate results in a relatively higher amount of dissolved oxygen in the fermentation medium than a low agitation rate. For example, in a fermentor of about 14,000 gallon capacity the agitation rate is set at from about 50 rpm to about 70 rpm during the first 12 hours, from about 55 rpm to about 80 rpm during about 12th hour to about 18th hour and from about 70 rpm to about 90 rpm from about 18th hour to the end of the fermentation process to achieve the dissolved oxygen level discussed above for a total fermentation process time of from about 90 hours to about 100 hours. A particular range of agitation speeds needed to achieve a particular amount of dissolved oxygen in the fermentation medium can be readily determined by one of ordinary skill in the art.

A preferred temperature for processes of the present invention is at least about 20°C, more preferably at least about 25°C, and most preferably at least about 30°C. It should be appreciated that cold water can retain a higher amount of dissolved oxygen than warm water. Thus, a higher fermentation medium temperature has the additional benefit of reducing the amount of dissolved oxygen, which is particularly desired as described above.

Certain microorganisms may require a certain amount of saline minerals in the fermentation medium. These saline minerals, especially chloride ions, can cause corrosion of the fermentor and other downstream processing equipment. To prevent or reduce these undesired effects due to a relatively large amount of chloride ions present in the fermentation medium, processes of the present invention can also include using non-chloride containing sodium salts, preferably sodium sulfate, in the fermentation medium as a source of sodium. More particularly, a significant portion of the sodium requirements of the fermentation is supplied as non-chloride containing sodium salts. For example, less than about 75% of the sodium in the fermentation medium is supplied as sodium chloride, more preferably less than about 50% and more preferably less than about 25%. The microorganisms of the present invention can be grown at chloride concentrations of less than about 3 g/L, more preferably less than about 500 mg/L, more preferably less than about 250 mg/L and more preferably between about 60 mg/L and about 120 mg/L.

Non-chloride containing sodium salts can include soda ash (a mixture of sodium carbonate and sodium oxide), sodium carbonate, sodium bicarbonate, sodium sulfate and mixtures thereof, and preferably include sodium sulfate. Soda ash, sodium carbonate and sodium bicarbonate tend to increase the pH of the fermentation medium, thus requiring control steps to maintain the proper pH of the medium. The concentration of sodium sulfate is effective to meet the salinity requirements of the microorganisms, preferably the sodium concentration is (expressed as g/L of Na) at least about 1 g/L, more preferably in the range of from about 1 g/L to about 50 g/L and more preferably in the range of from about 2 g/L to about 25 g/L.

Various fermentation parameters for inoculating, growing and recovering microorganisms are discussed in detail in U.S. Patent No. 5,130,242 , which is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety. Any currently known isolation methods can be used to isolate microorganisms from the fermentation medium, including centrifugation, filtration, ultrafiltration, decantation, and solvent evaporation. It has been found by the present inventors that because of such a high biomass density resulting from processes of the present invention, when a centrifuge is used to recover the microorganisms it is preferred to dilute the fermentation medium by adding water, which reduces the biomass density, thereby allowing more effective separation of microorganisms from the fermentation medium.

The very high biomass densities achieved in the present invention also facilitate "solventless" processes for recovery of microbial lipids. Preferred processes for lysing the cells in the fermentor are described in U.S. Provisional Patent Application Serial No. 60/177,125 entitled "SOLVENTLESS EXTRACTION PROCESS" filed January 19, 2000, U.S. Patent Application Serial No.            entitled "SOLVENTLESS EXTRACTION PROCESS" filed January 19, 2001, and PCT Patent Application Serial No.            entitled "SOLVENTLESS EXTRACTION PROCESS" filed January 19,2001, which are incorporated herein by reference in their entirety. Preferred processes for recovering the lipids once the cells are permeabilized, broken or lysed in the fermentor (which enables the lipid emulsion to be broken, and the lipid-rich fraction to be recovered) include the deoiling process outlined in WO 96/05278 which is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety. In this process a water soluble compound, e.g., alcohol or acetone, is added to the oil/water emulsion to break the emulsion and the resulting mixture is separated by gravity separation, e.g., centrifugation. This process can also be modified to use other agents (water and/or lipid soluble) to break the emulsion.

Alternatively, the microorganisms are recovered in a dry form from the fermentation medium by evaporating water from the fermentation medium, for example, by contacting the fermentation medium directly (i.e., without pre-concentration, for example, by centrifugation) with a dryer such as a drum-dryer apparatus, i.e., a direct drum-dryer recovery process. When using the direct drum-dryer recovery process to isolate microorganisms, typically a steam-heated drum-dryer is employed. In addition when using the direct drum-dryer recovery process, the biomass density of the fermentation medium is preferably at least about 130 g/L, more preferably at least about 150 g/L, and most preferably at least about 180 g/L. This high biomass density is generally desired for the direct drum-dryer recovery process because at a lower biomass density, the fermentation medium comprises a sufficient amount of water to cool the drum significantly, thus resulting in incomplete drying of microorganisms. Other methods of drying cells, including spray drying, are well known to one of ordinary skill in the art.

Processes of the present invention provide an average lipid production rate of at least about 0.5 g/L/hr, preferably at least about 0.7 g/L/hr, more preferably at least about 0.9 g/L/hr, and most preferably at least about 1.0 g/L/hr. Moreover, lipids produced by processes of the present invention contain polyunsaturated lipids in the amount greater than about 15%, preferably greater than about 20%, more preferably greater than about 25%, still more preferably greater than about 30%, and most preferably greater than about 35%. Lipids can be recovered from either dried microorganisms or from the microorganisms in the fermentation medium. Generally, at least about 20% of the lipids produced by the microorganisms in the processes of the present invention are omega-3 and/or omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids, preferably at least about 30% of the lipids are omega-3 and/or omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids, more preferably at least about 40% of the lipids are omega-3 and/or omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids, and most preferably at least about 50% of the lipids are omega-3 and/or omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids. Alternatively, processes of the present invention provides an average omega-3 fatty acid (e.g.. DHA) production rate of at least about 0.2 g of omega-3 fatty acid (e.g., DHA)/L/hr, preferably at least about 0.3 g of omega-3 fatty acid (e.g., DHA)/L/hr, more preferably at least about 0.4 g of omega-3 fatty acid (e.g., DHA)/L/hr, and most preferably at least about 0.5 g of omega-3 fatty acid (e.g., DHA)/L/hr. Alternatively, processes of the present invention provide an average omega-6 fatty acid (e.g., DPAn-6) production rate of at least about 0.07 g of omega-6 fatty acid (e.g., DPAn-6)/L/hr, preferably at least about 0.1 g of omega-6 fatty acid (e.g., DPAn-6)/L/hr, more preferably at least about 0.13 g of omega-6 fatty acid (e.g., DPAn-6)/L/hr, and most preferably at least about 0.17 g of omega-6 fatty acid (e.g., DPAn-6)/L/hr. Still alternatively, at least about 25% of the lipid is DHA (based on total fatty acid methyl ester), preferably at least about 30%, more preferably at least about 35%, and most preferably at least about 40%.

Microorganisms, lipids extracted therefrom, the biomass remaining after lipid extraction or combinations thereof can be used directly as a food ingredient, such as an ingredient in beverages, sauces, dairy based foods (such as milk, yogurt, cheese and ice-cream) and baked goods; nutritional supplement (in capsule or tablet forms); feed or feed supplement for any animal whose meat or products are consumed by humans; food supplement, including baby food and infant formula; and pharmaceuticals (in direct or adjunct therapy application). The term "animal" means any organism belonging to the kingdom Animalia and includes, without limitation, any animal from which poultry meat, seafood, beef, pork or lamb is derived. Seafood is derived from, without limitation, fish, shrimp and shellfish. The term "products" includes any product other than meat derived from such animals, including, without limitation, eggs, milk or other products. When fed to such animals, polyunsaturated lipids can be incorporated into the flesh, milk, eggs or other products of such animals to increase their content of these lipids.

Additional objects, advantages, and novel features of this invention will become apparent to those skilled in the art upon examination of the following examples thereof, which are not intended to be limiting.

EXAMPLES

The strain of Schizochytrium used in these examples produces two primary polyenoic acids, DHAn-3 and DPAn-6 in the ratio of generally about 3:1, and small amounts of other polyenoic acids, such as EPA and C20:3, under a wide variety of fermentation conditions. Thus, while the following examples only list the amount of DHA, one can readily calculate the amount of DPA(n-6) produced by using the above-disclosed ratio.

Example 1

This example illustrates the effect of oxygen content in a fermentation medium on lipid productivity.

Fermentation results of Schizochytrium ATCC No. 20888 at various levels of dissolved oxygen content were measured. The results are shown in Figure 1, where RCS is residual concentration of sugar, and DCW is dry-cell weight.

Example 2

This example also illustrates the effect of low oxygen content in the fermentation medium on DHA content (% dry weight) of the final biomass product.

A "scale-down" type experiment was conducted in 250 mL Erlenmeyer flasks to mimic the effect of low oxygen content on the DHA content in Schizochytrium sp. cells cultured in large-scale fermentors. Schizochytrium sp (ATCC 20888) was cultured in 04-4 medium. This culture media consisted of the following on a per liter basis dissolved in deionized water: Na2SO4 12.61 g; MgSO4•7H2O 1.2g; KCl 0.25 g; CaCl2 0.05 g; monosodium glutamate 7.0 g; glucose 10 g; KH2PO4 0.5 g; NaHCO3 0.1 g; yeast extract 0.1 g; vitamin mix 1.0 mL; PII metals 1.00 mL. PII metal mix contains (per liter): 6.0 g Na2EDTA, 0.29 g FeCl3•6H2O, 6.84 g H3BO3, 0.86 g MnCl2•4H2O, 0.06 g ZnCl2, 0.026 g CoCl2•6H2O, 0.052 g NiSO4•H2O, 0.002 CuSO4•H2O and 0.005 g Na2MoO4•2H2O. Vitamin mix contains (per liter): 100 mg thiamine, 0.5 mg biotin and 0.5 mg cyanocobalamin. The pH of the culture media was adjusted to 7.0 and it was then filter sterilized.

The idea behind this scale-down experiment was to culture the cells in shake flasks with different volumes of culture media in the flasks - almost full flasks (e.g. 200 mL in a 250 mL shake flask) would not mix well on a shake table and therefore as the cells grew, low dissolved oxygen conditions would be generated. Therefore 4 treatments were established in the experiment, each conducted in duplicate: (1) 250 mL flasks filled with 50 mL culture medium; (2) 250 mL flasks filled with 100 mL culture medium; (3) 250 mL flasks filled with 150 mL culture medium; and (4) 250 mL shake flasks filled with 200 mL culture medium. Each of the eight flasks was inoculated with cells from a 48 hour old culture of Schizochytrium cultured in 04-4 medium under the conditions in treatment 1, and at 28°C and 220 rpm on a shaker table. All eight flasks for the experiment were placed on a shaker table (220 rpm) in a incubator (28°C) and cultured for 48 hours in the dark. At the end of the experiment, dissolved oxygen (DO) levels in each flask were measured with a YSI dissolved oxygen meter, pH of the culture medium was also determined, and the dry weight of cells and their fatty acid content was also measured. The results of the experiment are outlined in Table 1. Table 1. Results of scale-down experiment examining effect of low dissolved oxygen concentrations on the long chain highly unsaturated fatty acid content (DHA % dry weight) of <i>Schizochytrium</i> sp. mL Medium FAME (%TFA) DHA (% dry wt) Biomass (g/L) Final PH DO (% sat) 50 16.5 7.4 4.2 7.4 31 100 17.0 6.5 3.9 7.2 29 150 22.4 9.2 2.7 7.0 11 200 35.9 14.5 1.8 6.9 3

The results indicate that the lipid content (as % FAME) and DHA content (% dry weight) were higher for cells cultured at low dissolved oxygen levels - the lower the dissolved oxygen level the higher the lipid and DHA content. This is unexpected because oxygen had been generally believed to be necessary to form desaturated (double) bonds. It is surprising that so much DHA was formed at low dissolved oxygen level, because DHA is one of the most unsaturated fatty acids. Although the biomass production decreases as the dissolved oxygen level is decreased, the DHA content is increased. Therefore, it is advantageous to have a growth phase with higher dissolved oxygen levels to maximize the formation of biomass and then lower the dissolved oxygen level to maximize long chain fatty acid production.

Example 3

This example illustrates the reproducibility of processes of the present invention.

Microorganisms were produced using fermentors with a nominal working volume of 1,200 gallons. The resulting fermentation broth was concentrated and microorganisms were dried using a drum-dryer. Lipids from aliquots of the resulting microorganisms were extracted and purified to produce a refined, bleached, and deodorized oil. Approximately 3,000 ppm of d-1-&agr;-tocopheryl acetate was added for nutritional supplementation purposes prior to analysis of the lipid.

Nine fermentations of Schizochytrium ATCC No. 20888 were run and the results are shown in Table 2. The dissolved oxygen level was about 8% during the first 24 hours and about 4% thereafter. Table 2. Fed-batch fermentation results for the production of DHA from <i>Schizochytrium</i> sp. Entry Age (Hrs) Yield1 (g/L) DHA2 (%) FAME3 (%) Productivity4 1 100.3 160.7 17.8 49.5 0.285 2 99.8 172.4 19.4 51.3 0.335 3 84.7 148.7 14.4 41.4 0.253 4 90.2 169.5 19.7 53.9 0.370 5 99.0 164.1 12.5 38.9 0.207 6 113.0 187.1 19.7 47.2 0.326 7 97.0 153.5 13.7 41.0 0.217 8 92.8 174.8 16.4 48.6 0.309 Aver.5 97.1 166.4 16.7 46.5 0.288 Std.6 8.4 12.3 2.9 5.4 0.058 CV7(%) 8.7 7.4 17.3 11.7 20.2 1. actual yield of biomass density. 2. DHA content as % cell dry weight. 3. total fatty acid content as % cell dry weight (measured as methyl esters). 4. (grams of DHA)/L/Hr. 5. average. 6. standard deviation 7. coefficients of variability. Coefficients of variability values below 5% indicate a process which has excellent reproducibility, values between 5% and 10% indicate a process which has good reproducibility and values between 10% and 20% indicate a process which has reasonable reproducibility.

Corn syrup was fed until the volume in the fermentor reached about 1,200 gallons, at which time the corn syrup addition was stopped. The fermentation process was stopped once the residual sugar concentration fell below 5 g/L. The typical age, from inoculation to final, was about 100 hours.

The fermentation broth, i.e., fermentation medium, was diluted with water using approximately a 2:1 ratio to reduce the ash content of the final product and help improve phase separation during the centrifugation step. The concentrated cell paste was heated to 160° F (about 71° C) and dried on a Blaw Knox double-drum dryer (42"x36"). Preferably, however, microorganisms are dried directly on a drum-dryer without prior centrifugation.

The analysis result of lipids extracted from aliquots of each entries in Table 2 is summarized in Table 3. Table 3. Analysis of the microbial biomass produced in the fed-batch fermentations outlined in Table. 2. Entry % DHA relative to FAME1 Total Lipid % by wt. 1 36.0 72.3 2 37.8 70.3 3 34.8 61.5 4 36.5 74.8 5 32.1 52.8 6 41.7 67.7 7 33.4 49.9 8 33.7 61.4 Average 35.8 63.8 Std. Deviation3 3.0 9.1 CV4 (%) 8.5 14.2 1. see Table 2. 2. see discussion above. 3. standard deviation. 4. coefficients of variability. Coefficients of variability values below 5% indicates a process which has excellent reproducibility, values between 5% and 10% indicates a process which has good reproducibility and values between 10% and 20% indicates a process which has reasonable reproducibility.

Unless otherwise stated, the fermentation medium used throughout the Examples section includes the following ingredients, where the first number indicates nominal target concentration and the number in parenthesis indicates acceptable range: sodium sulfate 12 g/L (11-13); KCl 0.5 g/L (0.45-0.55); MgSO4•7H2O 2 g/L (1.8-2.2); Hodag K-60 antifoam 0.35 g/L (0.3-0.4); K2SO4 0.65 g/L (0.60-0.70); KH2PO4 1 g/L (0.9-1.1); (NH4)2SO4 1 g/L (0.95-1.1); CaCl2•2H2O 0.17 g/L (0.15-0.19); 95 DE corn syrup (solids basis) 4.5 g/L (2-10); MnCl2•4H2O 3 mg/L (2.7-3.3); ZnSO4•7H2O 3 mg/L (2.7-3.3); CoCl2•6H2O 0.04 mg/L (0.035-0.045); Na2MoO4•2H2O 0.04 mg/L (0-0.045); CuSO4•5H2O 2 mg/L (1.8-2.2); NiSO4•6H2O 2 mg/L (1.8-2.2); FeSO4•7H2O 10 mg/L (9-11); thiamine 9.5 mg/L (4-15); vitamin B12 0.15 mg/L (0.05-0.25) and Calcium Pantothenate 3.2 mg/L (1.3-5.1). In addition, 28% NH4OH solution is used as the nitrogen source.

The ash content of the dried microorganisms is about 6% by weight.

Example 4

This example illustrates the effect of reduced dissolved oxygen level in the fermentation medium on the productivity of microorganisms at the 14,000-gallon scale.

Using the procedure described in Example 3, a 14,000-gallon nominal volume fermentation was conducted using a wild-type strain Schizochytrium, which can be obtained using isolation processes disclosed in the above-mentioned U.S. Patent Nos. 5,340,594 and 5,340,742 . The dissolved oxygen level in the fermentation medium was about 8% during the first 24 hours, about 4% from the 24th hour to the 40th hour and about 0.5% from the 40th hour to the end of fermentation process. Results of this lower dissolved oxygen level in fermentation medium processes are shown in Table 4. Table 4. Results of 14,000-gallon scale fed-batch fermentations of <i>Schizochytrium</i> at reduced dissolved oxygen concentrations. Entry Age (Hrs) Yield (g/L) %DHA %FAME %DHA rel. to FAME DHA Productivity (g of DHA/L/hr) 1 82.0 179.3 21.7 52.4 41.4 0.474 2 99.0 183.1 22.3 55.0 40.5 0.412 3 72.0 159.3 - - 40.9 - 4 77.0 161.3 - - 43.2 - 5 100.0 173.0 23.9 53.3 44.9 0.413 6 102.0 183.3 21.6 50.8 42.6 0.388 7 104.0 185.1 23.7 55.0 43.1 0.422 8 88.0 179.3 22.3 52.6 42.4 0.454 9 100.0 166.4 22.5 53.5 42.1 0.374 10 97.0 182.6 22.8 51.6 44.1 0.429 11 87.5 176.5 19.8 45.6 43.5 0.399 12 67.0 170.8 18.8 48.1 39.1 0.479 13 97.0 184.9 23.2 52.7 44.0 0.442 14 102.0 181.9 23.6 52.9 44.6 0.421 15 102.0 186.9 19.9 47.8 41.8 0.365 16 97.0 184.4 19.6 45.5 43.0 0.373 17 98.0 174.7 19.7 45.1 43.7 0.351 18 103.5 178.8 18.3 44.5 41.2 0.316 19 102.0 173.7 15.8 43.1 36.7 0.269 20 94.0 190.4 19.3 46.9 41.1 0.391 21 72.0 172.5 22.8 52.8 43.2 0.546 22 75.0 173.1 21.0 51.7 40.8 0.485 23 75.0 152.7 20.3 50.3 40.4 0.413 24 75.5 172.5 21.9 51.7 42.3 0.500 25 61.0 156.4 17.3 45.7 37.8 0.444 26 74.5 150.6 20.2 50.1 40.2 0.408 27 70.5 134.3 14.8 40.6 36.6 0.282 28 75.5 146.1 21.3 49.7 42.8 0.412 29 82.0 174.3 21.4 50.4 42.5 0.455 30 105.0 182.3 21.7 50.7 42.8 0.377 31 66.0 146.2 16.4 44.6 36.7 0.363 Avg 87.2 171.5 20.6 49.5 41.6 0.409 Std 13.9 14.1 2.4 3.8 2.3 0.061 CV 16.0% 8.2% 11.6% 7.7% 5.5% 15.0%

Example 5

This example illustrates the effect of reduced dissolved oxygen level in the fermentation medium on the productivity of microorganisms on a 41,000-gallon scale.

The same procedures as Example 4 were employed except that the fermentation was conducted in a 41,000-gallon fermentor. Culture media volumes were increased to maintain target compound concentrations at this scale. Results are shown in Table 5. Table 5. 41,000-gallon scale fermentation of <i>Schizochytrium</i> Entry Age (Hrs) Yield (g/L) %DHA %FAME %DHA rel. to FAME DHA Productivity (g of DHA/ L/hr) 1 75.0 116.1 17.3 46.1 37.4 0.268 2 99.0 159.3 17.4 47.0 37.1 0.280 3 103.0 152.6 16.0 47.2 33.8 0.237 4 68.0 136.8 17.9 45.9 39.1 0.360 5 84.0 142.0 17.5 47.0 37.2 0.296 Avg 85.8 141.4 17.2 46.6 36.9 0.288 Std 15.1 16.6 0.7 0.6 1.9 0.046 CV 17.5% 11.8 4.2% 1.3% 5.2% 15.8%

Example 6

This example illustrates the affect of extra nitrogen on the fermentation process of the present invention.

Four sets of 250-L scale fed-batch experiments were conducted using a procedure similar to Example 4. Two control experiments and two experiments containing extra ammonia (1.15x and 1.25x the normal amount) were conducted. Results are shown in Table 6. Table 6. Affects of extra ammonia on fermentation of <i>Schizochytrium</i>. Age (hrs) Yield (g/L) Biomass Productivity Conversion Efficiency DHA Content FAME Content DHA Productivity Sugar target: 7 g/L, Base pH set point: 5.5, Acid pH set point: 7.3, 1.0X NH3 48 178 3.71 g/L/hr 51.5% 10.7% 37.8% 0.40 g/L/hr 60 185 3.08 g/L/hr 46.9% 16.3% 47.2% 0.50 g/L/hr 72 205 2.85 g/L/hr 45.2% 17.4% 47.4% 0.50 g/L/hr 84 219 2.61 g/L/hr 43.8% 17.1% 45.5% 0.45 g/L/hr 90 221 2.46 g/L/hr 44.1% 18.4% 48.9% 0.45 g/L/hr Sugar target: 7 g/L, Base pH set point: 5.5, Acid pH set point: 7.3, 1.15X NH3 48 171 3.56 g/L/hr 55.6% 12.0% 36.3% 0.43 g/L/hr 60 197 3.28 g/L/hr 54.6% 9.4% 38.4% 0.31 g/L/hr 72 191 2.65 g/L/hr 52.8% 9.4% 40.0% 0.25 g/L/hr 84 190 2.26 g/L/hr 52.5% 10.0% 42.5% 0.23 g/L/hr 90 189 2.10 g/L/hr 52.2% 9.2% 43.3% 0.19 g/L/hr Sugar target: 7 g/L, Base pH set point: 5.5, Acid pH set point: 7.3, 1.25X NH3 48 178 3.71 g/L/hr 56.4% 11.5% 33.7% 0.43 g/L/hr 60 179 2.98 g/L/hr 48.6% 10.3% 36.0% 0.31 g/L/hr 72 180 2.50 g/L/hr 48.8% 12.0% 37.6% 0.30 g/L/hr 84 181 2.15 g/L/hr 46.1% 13.6% 40.1% 0.29 g/L/hr 90 185 2.06 g/L/hr 45.7% 12.6% 40.7% 0.26 g/L/hr Sugar target: 7 g/L, Base pH set point: 5.5, Acid pH set point: 7.3, 1.0X NH3 48 158 3.29 g/L/hr 55.7% 13.1% 36.5% 0.43 g/L/hr 60 174 2.90 g/L/hr 48.9% 17.9% 39.2% 0.52 g/L/hr 72 189 2.63 g/L/hr 45.7% 21.0% 39.4% 0.55 g/L/hr 84 196 2.33 g/L/hr 44.1% 22.4% 40.1% 0.52 g/L/hr 90 206 2.29 g/L/hr 44.8% 22.1% 40.3% 0.51 g/L/hr
In general, extra nitrogen has a negative effect on fermentation performance, as significant reductions were observed in the DHA productivity for the two batches where extra ammonia was added. As shown on Table 6, the control batches resulted in final DHA levels of 18.4% and 22.1 % of total cellular dry weight versus the 9.2% (1.15x ammonia) and 12.6% (1.25x ammonia) for extra nitrogen supplemented batches.

Example 7

This example shows a kinetic profile of a fermentation process of the present invention.

A 1000-gallon scale fed-batch experiment was conducted using a procedure similar to Example 4. Kinetic profile of the fermentation process is shown in Table 7. Table 7. Kinetic Profile for a 1,000-gallon scale Fed-Batch fermentation of <i>Schizochytrium.</i> Age (hrs) Yield (g/L) Biomass Productivity Conversion Efficiency %DHA Content %FAME Content DHA Productivity 24 118 4.92 g/L/hr 78.2% 7.4 18.8 0.36 g/L/hr 30 138 4.60 g/L/hr 60.3% 10.6 30.9 0.49 g/L/hr 36 138 3.83 g/L/hr 46.6% 11.6 36.5 0.44 g/L/hr 42 175 4.17 g/L/hr 49.8% 13.4 41.7 0.56 g/L/hr 48 178 3.71 g/L/hr 45.1% 18.7 52.8 0.69 g/L/hr 48* 164 3.42 g/L/hr 41.5% 15.3 33.1 0.52 g/L/hr 54 196 3.63 g/L/hr 45.7% 16.6 51.2 0.60 g/L/hr 60 190 3.17 g/L/hr 41.7% 16.9 33.9 0.54 g/L/hr 72 189 2.62 g/L/hr 39.1% 15.6 31.8 0.41 g/L/hr 84 195 2.32 g/L/hr 38.5% 16.4 32.7 0.38 g/L/hr 90 200 2.22 g/L/hr 39.0% 18.8 33.3 0.42 g/L/hr 90 171 1.90 g/L/hr 33.3% 22.2 61.6 0.42 g/L/hr ** * Two separate samples were analyzed at 48 hrs. ** This is for a washed dry-cell weights (DCW) sample. Other reported values are for unwashed samples.

Example 8

This example illustrates affect of the amount of carbon source on productivity.

Three different fermentation processes using the process of Example 4 were conducted using various amounts of carbon source. Results are shown on Table 8. Table 8. Fermentation results for various amounts of carbon source on fermentation of <i>Schizochytrium</i>. Age (hrs) Yield (g/L) Carbon Charge Conversion Efficiency %DHA Content %FAME Content Productivity (g/L/hr) 90 171 51.3% 33.3% 22.2 61.6 0.42 94 122 40.5% 30.1% 19.1 57.3 0.25 59 73 20.0% 36.5% 11.9 40.8 0.15

Example 9

This example illustrates the effect of nutrient limitation on carbon conversion efficiency to biomass, lipid and most specifically DHA.

A continuous culture experiment to investigate the effect of nutrient limitation was performed by culturing Schizochytrium ATCC No. 20888 in a 2-liter volume Applikon fermentor in basal growth (ICM-2) medium consisting of the following compounds (nominal concentration): Group I ingredients: Na2SO4 (18.54 g/L), MgSO4•7H2O (2.0 g/L) and KCL (0.572 g/L); Group II ingredients (each prepared separately): glucose (43.81 g/L), KH2PO4 (1.28 g/L), CaCl2•2H2O (0.025 g/L) and (NH4)2SO4 (6.538 g/L); Group III ingredients: Na2EDTA (6.0 mg/L), FeCl3•6H2O (0.29 mg/L), H3BO3 (6.84 mg/L), MnCl2•4H2O (0.86 mg/L), ZnSO4•7H2O (0.237 mg/L), CoCl2•2H2O (0.026 mg/L), Na2MoO4•2H2O (0.005 mg/L), CuSO4•5H2O (0.002 mg/L) and NiSO4•6H2O (0.052 mg/L); and Group IV ingredients: thiamine HCl (0.2 mg/L), Vitamin B12 (0.005 mg/L), Calcium pantothenate (0.2 mg/L). Groups I and II were autoclave sterilized, while Groups III and IV were filter sterilized prior to adding to the fermentor. The growth medium was then inoculated with Schizochytrium and grown under controlled conditions of 30°C, pH 5.5 and dissolved oxygen of 20% of saturation until maximum cell density was achieved.

A continuous operation mode was then established by simultaneously pumping sterile ICM-2 feed medium into the fermentor and removing the broth containing Schizochytrium cells at a flowrate sufficient to maintain a dilution rate of 0.06hr-1, until a steady state is reached. To investigate the effect of nutrient limitation, the compound containing the specified required nutrient is lowered in the ICM-2 feed medium such that this nutrient is depleted in the outlet cell-containing broth, so that growth of the cells is limited by absence of the particular required nutrient. Once steady state operation was established for each condition, final broth dry biomass, residual glucose, and limiting nutrient concentrations, lipid content of the cell and DHA content of the cells were measured. The conversion efficiency of glucose to biomass was calculated by dividing the total glucose consumed by the total dried biomass formed, and expressed on a percentage basis.

The effects of limiting growth by each individual nutrient were studied by repeating this experiment for each individual nutrient listed in the following table. Final results are summarized in the following table: Table 9. Effect of nutrient limitation on the biomass yield, conversion efficiency (glucose -> biomass), lipid content and DHA content of <i>Schizochytrium</i> sp. Limiting Nutrient Biomass1 (g/l) Yx/s 2 RCS3 (g/l) Lipid Content4 (%) DHA Content5 (%) Glucose 18.7 46.8 0.0 19.8 7.3 Nitrogen 14.5 36.3 0.6 47.5 10.3 Phosphate 17.8 44.5 0.8 37.0 8.2 Thiamine 7.5 18.8 7.7 11.1 4.0 Zinc 16.0 40.0 1.3 27.8 7.2 Copper 14.0 35.0 10.4 13.8 5.3 Cobalt 14.5 36.3 0.0 22.2 6.9 Nickel 17.8 44.5 0.0 21.9 8.0 Iron 15.9 39.8 3.5 18.5 7.2 Manganese 12.5 31.3 3.4 26.1 8.0 Magnesium 13.9 34.8 5.3 18.7 6.4 Calcium 16.7 41.8 4.3 18.7 6.4 Vitamin B12 19.6 49.0 0.0 17.5 6.3 Molybdenum 18.9 47.3 0.0 19.3 7.0 Pantothenate 19.2 48.0 0.0 20.4 6.7 Sodium 17.9 44.8 1.8 21.8 8.2 Potassium 13.0 32.5 8.8 14.1 5.3 1. concentration of dry biomass (grams/liter) 2. yield coefficient (% biomass produced/glucose consumed) 3. residual glucose concentration in broth (grams/liter) 4. lipid content of dry biomass (g lipid (as FAME)/g dry biomass) 5. DHA content of dry biomass (g DHA/g dry biomass)

It is clear from the table that nitrogen limitation resulted in the highest accumulation of DHA in the cells, followed by phosphate, sodium, nickel, manganese, glucose(carbon), zinc and iron. This information can be employed commercially by feeding one or more of these nutrients to a batch fermentation at a rate sufficient to limit cell growth. In the most preferred case, nitrogen is fed in a limiting manner to the batch fermentation to maximize the DHA content of the cells. Other nutrients (or mixtures thereof) can be fed in a limiting manner to maximize production of biomass or other valuable products. Other biologically required elements or nutrients that were not evaluated, such as sulfur, could also be employed as limiting nutrients in this fermentation control strategy.

The present invention, in various embodiments, includes components, methods, processes, systems and/or apparatus substantially as depicted and described herein, including various embodiments, subcombinations, and subsets thereof. Those of skill in the art will understand how to make and use the present invention after understanding the present disclosure. The present invention, in various embodiments, includes providing devices and processes in the absence of items not depicted and/or described herein or in various embodiments hereof, including in the absence of such items as may have been used in previous devices or processes, e.g., for improving performance, achieving ease and\or reducing cost of implementation.

The foregoing discussion of the invention has been presented for purposes of illustration and description. The foregoing is not intended to limit the invention to the form or forms disclosed herein. Although the description of the invention has included description of one or more embodiments and certain variations and modifications, other variations and modifications are within the scope of the invention, e.g., as may be within the skill and knowledge of those in the art, after understanding the present disclosure. It is intended to obtain rights which include alternative embodiments to the extent permitted, including alternate, interchangeable and/or equivalent structures, functions, ranges or steps to those claimed, whether or not such alternate, interchangeable and/or equivalent structures, functions, ranges or steps are disclosed herein, and without intending to publicly dedicate any patentable subject matter.


Anspruch[en]
A process for producing lipids containing polyenoic fatty acids from eukaryotic microorganisms capable of producing at least about 20% of their biomass as lipids comprising adding to a fermentation medium comprising said microorganisms a non-alcohol carbon source and a limiting nutrient source at a rate sufficient to increase the biomass density of said fermentation medium to at least about 100 g/L. The process of Claim 1, wherein said process comprises a biomass density increasing stage and a production stage, wherein said biomass density increasing stage comprises adding said carbon source and said limiting nutrient source and said production stage comprises adding said carbon source with no or little additional said limiting nutrient source to induce nutrient limiting conditions which induces lipid production. The process of Claim 2, wherein the amount of dissolved oxygen present in said fermentation medium during said production stage is lower than the amount of dissolved oxygen present in said fermentation medium during said biomass density increasing stage. The process of Claim 3, wherein the amount of dissolved oxygen in said fermentation medium during said biomass density increasing stage is at least about 4%. The process of Claim 4, wherein the amount of dissolved oxygen in said fermentation medium during said production stage is less than about 1%. The process of Claim 1, wherein said limiting nutrient source comprises a nitrogen source. The process of Claim 6, wherein said nitrogen source comprises an inorganic ammonium salt. The process of Claim 6, wherein said nitrogen source comprises ammonium hydroxide. The process of Claim 7, wherein pH of the fermentation medium is controlled by said limiting nutrient source. The process of Claim 1, wherein said fermentation medium is at a temperature of at least about 20°C. The process of Claim 1, wherein said process produces lipids at an average rate of at least about 0.5 g/L/hr. The process of Claim 11 or 16, wherein at least about 15% of said lipids are polyunsaturated lipids. The process of Claim 1, wherein said microorganisms are selected from the group consisting of algae, fungi (including yeast), protists, bacteria and mixtures thereof, wherein said microorganisms are capable of producing polyenoic fatty acids or other lipids which had been generally believed to require oxygen for their synthesis. The process of Claim 13, wherein said microorganisms are capable of producing lipids at a fermentation medium oxygen level of about less than 3% of saturation. The process of Claim 13, wherein said microorganisms are grown in a fed-batch process. The process of Claim 15 further comprising maintaining an oxygen level of less than about 3% of saturation in said fermentation medium during the production phase of said fermentation process. A process for growing eukaryotic microorganisms capable of producing at least about 20% of their biomass as lipids, said process comprising adding to a fermentation medium comprising said microorganisms a carbon source and a limiting nutrient source at a rate sufficient to increase the biomass density of said fermentation medium to at least about 100 g/L, wherein said process produces at least an average rate of about 0. 5 g/L/hr of lipids, and wherein at least about 15% of the total lipids produced by said microorganisms is polyunsaturated lipids. The process of Claim 17, wherein said process further comprises : (a) a biomass density increasing stage, wherein the dissolved oxygen level in the fermentation medium is at least about 4%; and (b) a high lipid production stage, wherein the dissolved oxygen level in the fermentation medium is less than about 1%. The process of Claim 17, wherein said carbon source is a non-alcohol carbon source. The process of Claim 17, wherein said microorganisms are microalgae. The process of Claim 11 or 17, wherein the total amount of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids is at least about 20% of said lipids. The process of Claim 11 or 17, wherein at least about 25% of said lipids is docosahexaenoic acid. A process for growing eukaryotic microorganisms comprising adding to a fermentation medium comprising said microorganisms a carbon source and limiting nutrient source at a rate sufficient to increase the biomass density of said fermentation medium to at least about 100 g/L, wherein said microorganisms are selected from the group consisting of algae, fungi (including yeast), protists, bacteria and mixtures thereof, and wherein said microorganisms are capable of producing at least about 20% of their biomass as lipids comprising some polyenoic fatty acids. The process of Claim 23, wherein said process produces microbial lipids at an average rate of least about 0.5 g/L/hr. The process of Claim 24, wherein greater than about 15% of said lipids are polyunsaturated lipids. The process of Claim 24, wherein the total amount of omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids are at least about 20% of said lipids. The process of Claim 24, wherein at least about 25% of said lipids is docosahexaenoic acid. The process of Claim 23, wherein said process produces on average at least about 0.2 g/L/hr of docosahexaenoic acid. The process of Claim 23, wherein said carbon source is not an alcohol. The process of Claim 29, wherein said carbon source is a carbohydrate. A process for producing eukaryotic microbial lipids comprising: (a) growing eukaryotic microorganisms in a fermentation medium to increase the biomass density of said fermentation medium to at least about 100 g/L; (b) providing fermentation conditions sufficient to allow said microorganisms to produce said lipids; and (c) recovering said lipids, wherein greater than about 15% of said lipids are polyunsaturated lipids. The process of Claim 31, wherein a dissolved oxygen level in said fermentation medium during said microorganism growing step is higher than the dissolved oxygen level in the fermentation medium during said lipid producing step. The process of Claim 31, wherein the dissolved oxygen level in said fermentation medium during the microorganism growing step is at least about 4%. The process of Claim 31, wherein the dissolved oxygen level in said fermentation medium during the lipid producing step is less than about 1%. The process of Claim 31, wherein the total amount of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids is at least about 20% of said microbial lipids. The process of Claim 31, wherein at least about 25% of said microbial lipids is docosahexaenoic acid. The process of Claim 31, wherein said lipid recovery step comprises: (d) removing water from said fermentation medium to provide dry microorganisms; and (e) isolating said lipids from said dry microorganisms. The process of Claim 37, wherein said water removal step comprises contacting said fermentation medium directly on a drum-dryer without prior centrifugation. The process of Claim 31, wherein said microorganism growing step comprises adding a carbon source and a limiting nutrient source. The process of Claim 39, wherein said carbon source is non-alcohol. The process of Claim 40, wherein said carbon source comprises a carbohydrate. A process for producing eukaryotic microbial lipids comprising: (a) adding a non-alcohol carbon source and a limiting nutrient source to a fermentation medium comprising said microorganisms; (b) providing conditions sufficient for said microorganisms to produce said microbial lipids ; and (c) recovering said microbial lipids, wherein at least about 15% of said microbial lipids are polyunsaturated lipids. The process of Claim 42, wherein the dissolved oxygen level in said fermentation medium during a biomass density increasing step is higher than the dissolved oxygen level in said fermentation medium during a lipid producing step. The process of Claim 42, wherein the dissolved oxygen level in said fermentation medium during a biomass density increasing step is at least about 4%. The process of Claim 42, wherein the dissolved oxygen level in said fermentation medium during a lipid producing step is about 1% or less. The process of Claim 42, wherein said microorganisms are selected from the group consisting of algae, fungi (including yeast), protists, bacteria and mixtures thereof. The process of Claim 42, wherein said process produces said microbial lipids at an average rate of at least about 0.5 g/L/hr. The process of Claim 47, wherein the total amount of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids is at least about 20% of said microbial lipids. The process of Claim 42, wherein at least about 25% of said lipids is docosahexaenoic acid. The process of Claim 33, wherein said lipid recovery step comprises: (d) removing water from said fermentation medium to provide dry microorganisms ; and (e) isolating said lipids from said dry microorganisms. The process of Claim 50, wherein said water removal step comprises evaporating water from said fermentation medium without prior centrifugation. The process of Claim 1 or 42, wherein said non-alcohol carbon source comprises a carbohydrate. The process of Claim 1, 17, 23, 39 or 42, wherein said limiting nutrient source is selected from the group consisting of nitrogen sources, carbon sources, phosphate sources, vitamin sources (such as vitamin B12 sources, pantothenate sources, thiamine sources), trace metal sources (such as zinc sources, copper sources, cobalt sources, nickel sources, iron sources, manganese sources, molybdenum sources), and major metal sources (such as magnesium sources, calcium sources, sodium sources, potassium sources), silica sources and mixtures thereof. The process of Claim 53, wherein said trace metal sources and major metal sources are selected from the group consisting of sulfate and chloride salts of these metals (such as MgSO4•7H2O; MnCl2•4H2O; ZnSO4•7H2O; CoCl2•6H2O; Na2MoO4•2H2O; CuSO4•5H2O; NiSO4•6H2O; FeSO47H2O; CaCl2; K2SO4; KCl; and Na2SO4) and mixtures thereof. The process of Claim 17, 23, 39 or 42 wherein said limiting nutrient source comprises a nitrogen source. The process of Claim 55, wherein said nitrogen source comprises an inorganic ammonium salt. A process for producing eukaryotic microbial lipids comprising: (a) adding a carbon source and a limiting nutrient source to a fermentation medium comprising eukaryotic microorganisms and providing conditions sufficient to maintain a dissolved oxygen level of at least about 4% in said fermentation medium to produce a biomass density of at least about 100 g/L; (b) providing conditions sufficient to maintain a dissolved oxygen level of about 1% or less in said fermentation medium and providing conditions sufficient to allow said microorganisms to produce said lipids; and (c) recovering said microbial lipids, wherein at least about 15% of said microbial lipids are polyunsaturated lipids. The process of Claim 57, wherein said microorganisms are selected from the group consisting of algae, fungi (including yeast), protists, bacteria and mixtures thereof. The process of Claim 57, wherein at least about 20% of said microbial lipids is omega-3 and/or omega-6 fatty acids. The process of Claim 57, wherein at least about 25% of said microbial lipids is docosahexaenoic acid. The process of Claim 57, wherein said process produces docosahexaenoic acid at an average rate of at least about 0.2 g/L/hr. The process of Claim 17, 23, 31, 42 or 57, wherein said microorganisms are selected from the group consisting of algae, fungi (including yeast), protists, bacteria and mixtures thereof, wherein said microorganisms are capable of producing polyenoic fatty acids or other lipids which had been generally believed to require oxygen for their synthesis. The process of Claim 1, 23, 31, 42 or 57, wherein said microorganisms are microalgae and algae like microorganisms. The process of Claim 1, 17, 23, 31, 42 or 57 wherein said microorganisms are Stramenopiles. The process of Claim 1, 17, 31, 42 or 57, wherein said microorganisms are of the order Thraustochytriales. The process of Claim 1, 17, 31, 42 or 57, wherein said microorganisms are selected from the group consisting of Thraustochytrium. Schizochytrium, and mixtures thereof. The process of Claim 39 or 42, wherein said limiting nutrient sources comprises a nitrogen source. The process of Claim 23 or 67, wherein said nitrogen source comprises ammonium hydroxide. The process of Claim 31 or 42, wherein said process produces docosahexaenoic acid at an average rate of at least about 0.2 g/L/hr. The process of Claim 57, wherein the lipid recovery step comprises : (d) removing water from said fermentation medium to provide dry microorganisms ; and (e) isolating said lipids from said dry microorganisms. The process of Claim 70, wherein the water removal step comprises evaporating the water directly from said fermentation medium without prior centrifugation. The process of Claim 31, 42 or 57, wherein said lipid recovery step comprises: (d) treating the fermentation broth to permeabilize, lyse or rupture the microbial cells; and (e) recovering the lipids from the fermentation broth by gravity separation, with or without the aid of an agent to aid in breaking the lipid/water emulsion. The process of Claim 72, wherein said microbial cells are treated in step (d) in a fermentor or a similar vessel. The process of Claim 72, wherein said gravity separation comprises centrifugation. A method for enriching the polyenoic fatty acid content of a microorganism comprising fermenting said microorganism in a growth medium having a level of dissolved oxygen of less than 10%. The process of Claim 75, wherein said microorganism contains polyketide synthase genes. A heterotrophic process for producing products and microorganisms comprising : a. culturing said microorganisms in a growth medium wherein said microorganisms contain polyketide synthase genes ; and b. maintaining the level of dissolved oxygen at less than about 10 percent. The process of Claim 77, wherein said polyketide synthase genes occur naturally in said microorganisms. The process of Claim 77, wherein said polyketide synthase genes are genetically introduced into the said microorganisms. The process of Claim 75 or 77, wherein said level of dissolved oxygen is less than 5 percent. The process of Claim 75 or 77, wherein said level of dissolved oxygen is less than 1 percent. The process of Claim 75 or 77, wherein during an initial growth phase, the level of dissolved oxygen is greater than about 10 percent and during a subsequent production phase the level of dissolved oxygen is less than 10 percent.






IPC
A Täglicher Lebensbedarf
B Arbeitsverfahren; Transportieren
C Chemie; Hüttenwesen
D Textilien; Papier
E Bauwesen; Erdbohren; Bergbau
F Maschinenbau; Beleuchtung; Heizung; Waffen; Sprengen
G Physik
H Elektrotechnik

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