Novel mannosylerythritol lipid biosurfactant structures from castor oil revealed by advanced structure analysis
Mannosylerythritol lipids (MELs) are glycolipid biosurfactants produced by fungi of the Ustilaginaceae family in the presence of hydrophobic carbon sources like plant oils. In the present study, we investigated the structural composition of MELs produced from castor oil using seven different microorganisms and compared them to MEL structures resulting from other plant oils. Castor oil is an industrially relevant plant oil that presents as an alternative to currently employed edible plant oils like rapeseed or soybean oil. The main fatty acid in castor oil is the mono-hydroxylated ricinoleic acid, providing the possibility to produce novel MEL structures with interesting features. Analysis of the produced MELs from castor oil by different chromatographic and mass spectrometry techniques revealed that all seven microorganisms were generally able to integrate hydroxylated fatty acids into the MEL molecule, although at varying degrees. These novel MELs containing a hydroxy fatty acid (4-O-[2'-O-alka(e)noyl-3'-O-hydroxyalka(e)noyl-4'/6'-O-acetyl-v-D-mannopyranosyl]-erythritol) were more hydrophilic than conventional MEL and therefore showed a different elution behavior in chromatography. Large shares of novel hydroxy MELs (around 50% of total MELs) were found for the two MEL-B/C producing species Ustilago siamensis and Ustilago shanxiensis, but also for the MEL-A/B/C producer Moesziomyces aphidis (around 25%). In addition, tri-acylated hydroxylated MELs with a third long-chain fatty acid esterified to the free hydroxyl group of the hydroxy fatty acid were identified for some species. Overall, production of MEL from castor oil with the investigated organisms provided a complex mixture of various novel MEL structures that can be exploited for further research.