Modulation of saturation and chain length of fatty acids in Saccharomyces cerevisiae for production of cocoa butter-like lipids

David Bergenholm, Michael Gossing, Yongjun Wei, Verena Siewers, Jens Nielsen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Chain length and degree of saturation plays an important role for the characteristics of various products derived from fatty acids, such as fuels, cosmetics, and food additives. The seeds of Theobroma cacao are the source of cocoa butter, a natural lipid of high interest for the food and cosmetics industry. Cocoa butter is rich in saturated fatty acids that are stored in the form of triacylglycerides (TAGs). One of the major TAG species of cocoa butter, consisting of two stearic acid molecules and one oleic acid molecule (stearic acid-oleic acid-stearic acid, sn-SOS), is particularly rare in nature as the saturated fatty acid stearic acid is typically found only in low abundance. Demand for cocoa butter is increasing, yet T. cacao can only be cultivated in some parts of the tropics. Alternative means of production of cocoa butter lipids (CBLs) are, therefore, sought after. Yeasts also store fatty acids in the form of TAGs, but these are typically not rich in saturated fatty acids. To make yeast an attractive host for microbial production of CBLs, its fatty acid composition needs to be optimized. We engineered Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast strains toward a modified fatty acid synthesis. Analysis of the fatty acid profile of the modified strains showed that the fatty acid content as well as the titers of saturated fatty acids and the titers of TAGs were increased. The relative content of potential CBLs in the TAG pool reached up to 22% in our engineered strains, which is a 5.8-fold increase over the wild-type. SOS content reached a level of 9.8% in our engineered strains, which is a 48-fold increase over the wild type.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBiotechnology and Bioengineering
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)932-942
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Cocoa butter
  • Fatty acids
  • Metabolic engineering
  • Triacylglycerides


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