The cell surface engineering system, in which functional proteins are genetically displayed on microbial cell surfaces, has recently become a powerful tool for applied biotechnology. Here, we report on the surfactant modification of surface-displayed lipase to improve its performance for enzymatic synthesis reactions. The lipase activities of the surfactant-modified yeast displaying Rhizopus oryzae lipase (ROL) were evaluated in both aqueous and nonaqueous systems. Despite the similar lipase activities of control and surfactant-modified cells in aqueous media, the treatment with nonionic surfactants increased the specific lipase activity of the ROL-displaying yeast in n-hexane. In particular, the Tween 20-modified cells increased the cell surface hydrophobicity significantly among a series of Tween surfactants tested, resulting in 8-30 times higher specific activity in organic solvents with relatively high log P values. The developed cells were successfully used for the enzymatic synthesis of phospho-lipids and fatty acid methyl esters in n-hexane, whereas the nontreated cells produced a significantly low yield. Our results thus indicate that surfactant modification of the cell surface can enhance the potential of the surface-displayed lipase for bioconversion.
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