Burkholderia thailandensis E264 is a potential non-pathogenic substitute for producing rhamnolipid biosurfactant, replacing the pathogenic Pseudomonas aeruginosa. However, it has low rhamnolipid production and longer fermentation time. We have earlier suggested that media supplementation with exogenous quorum sensing (QS) molecules could lead to early onset of biosynthesis and increased rhamnolipid yield. Here, we assessed the effect of single, double or triple mutations in the various QS systems of B. thailandensis on rhamnolipid production, with the view to see which system(s) have the most impact on rhamnolipid yield and subsequently use the QS molecule to potentially increase yield in the wild-type B. thailandensis. The triple mutant strain had a rhamnolipid yield of 4.46 ± 0.345 g/l at 240 h of fermentation which was significantly higher than that of the wild type (0.94 ± 0.06 g/l), an unexpected outcome. To gain more insight as to how this might occur, we studied substrate metabolism and energy storage in the form of polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) by both the triple mutant and the wild type. We observed increased glycerol metabolism and reduced PHA production in the triple mutant compared with the wild type. Glycerol concentration at 240 h and maximum PHA productivity (g/gDCB) were 8.76 g/l or 16.19 g/l and 21.80% or 31.4% in either the triple mutant or the wild type respectively. Complementation of the triple-mutant cultures with exogenous QS molecules restored rhamnolipid production to similar levels as the wild type. QS therefore is a potential target for increased rhamnolipid production in B. thailandensis.
Keywords: Burkholderia thailandensis; Quorum sensing; Rhamnolipid; Triple mutant; Wild type.