C. Nacke, S. Hüttmann, M. M. W. Etschmann, J. Schrader
A biotechnological process concept for generation and in situ separation of natural β-ionone from β-carotene is presented. The process employs carotenoid cleavage dioxygenases (CCDs), a plant-derived iron-containing nonheme enzyme family requiring only dissolved oxygen as cosubstrate and no additional cofactors. Organophilic pervaporation was found to be very well suited for continuous in situ separation of β-ionone. Its application led to a highly pure product despite the complexity of the reaction solution containing cell homogenates. Among three different pervaporation membrane types tested, a polyoctylmethylsiloxane active layer on a porous polyetherimide support led to the best results. A laboratory-scale demonstration plant was set up, and a highly pure aqueous–ethanolic solution of β-ionone was produced from β-carotene. The described process permits generation of high-value flavor and fragrance compounds bearing the desired label “natural” according to US and European food and safety regulations and demonstrates the potential of CCD enzymes for selective oxidative cleavage of carotenoids.