Nanosecond pulsed electrical fields enhance product recovery in plant cell fermentation
The potential of pharmacologically active secondary plant metabolites is limited by the low yield from often rare plants, and the lack of economically feasible chemical synthesis of these complex compounds. Plant cell fermentation offers an alternative strategy to overcome these constraints. However, the efficiency of this approach is limited by intracellular sequestration of the products, such that continuous bioprocessing is not possible. As a precondition for such a, more attractive,
... attractive, continuous process, it is of great importance to stimulate the export of the product into the medium without impairing viability and, thus, the productivity of the cells. Using nicotine alkaloids of tobacco as a case study, an alternative strategy is explored, where nanosecond pulsed electric fields (nsPEFs) are applied for the efficient downstream recovery of the products. To maintain cell viability and allow for the further use of biomass, cells were exposed to strong (1–20 kV·cm$^-1}$), but very short (10–100 ns) electric pulses, which leads to a temporary permeabilisation of cell membranes. Using two transgenic cell lines, where two key genes involved in the metabolism of the anti-Alzheimer compound nornicotine were overexpressed, we could show that this nsPEF treatment improved the partitioning of some nicotine alkaloids to the culture medium without impairing viability, nor the synthesis of alkaloids. However, this release was only partial and did not work for nornicotine. Thus, nsPEFs produced a fractionation of alkaloids. We explain this electrofractionation by a working model considering the differential intracellular compartmentalization of nicotineic alkaloids.