Impact of oxygen supply and scale up on Mycobacterium smegmatis cultivation and mycofactocin formation.
Mycofactocin (MFT) is a recently discovered glycosylated redox cofactor, which has been associated with the detoxification of antibiotics in pathogenic mycobacteria, and, therefore, of potential medical interest. The MFT biosynthetic gene cluster is commonly found in mycobacteria, including Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the causative agent of tuberculosis. Since the MFT molecule is highly interesting for basic research and could even serve as a potential drug target, large-scale production of the molecule is highly desired. However, conventional shake flask cultivations failed to produce enough MFT for further biochemical characterization like kinetic studies and structure elucidation, and a more comprehensive study of cultivation parameters is urgently needed. Being a redox cofactor, it can be hypothesized that the oxygen transfer rate (OTR) is a critical parameter for MFT formation. Using the non-pathogenic strain Mycobacterium smegmatis mc2 155, shake flask experiments with online measurement of the oxygen uptake and the carbon dioxide formation, were conducted under different levels of oxygen supply. Using liquid chromatography and high-resolution mass spectrometry, a 4–8 times increase of MFT production was identified under oxygen-limited conditions, in both complex and mineral medium. Moreover, the level of oxygen supply modulates not only the overall MFT formation but also the length of the glycosidic chain. Finally, all results were scaled up into a 7 L stirred tank reactor to elucidate the kinetics of MFT formation. Ultimately, this study enables the production of high amounts of these redox cofactors, to perform further investigations into the role and importance of MFTs.