Brazzein boost could pave way for next super sweetener

Sugar and high-fructose corn syrup are relative swear words today – and the search continues for natural, low-cal alternatives. Soon, there could be another option that tastes more sugar-like than other substitutes.

Scientists report in ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry a step toward commercial production of a fruit protein called brazzein that is far sweeter than sugar — and has fewer calories.

Brazzein first attracted attention as a potential sugar substitute years ago. Making it in large amounts, however, has been challenging.

Purifying it from the West African fruit, Pentadiplandra brazzeana Baillon plant, that produces it naturally would be difficult on a commercial scale, and efforts to engineer microorganisms to make the protein have so far yielded a not-so-sweet version in low quantities.

Kwang-Hoon Kong and colleagues at University in Seoul, Korea, are working on a new approach using yeast to churn out brazzein.

Working with Kluyveromyces lactis, the researchers coaxed the yeast to overproduce two proteins that are essential for assembling brazzein. By doing so, the team made 2.6 times more brazzein than they had before with the same organism.

A panel of tasters found that the protein produced by this approach was more than 2,000 times sweeter than sugar.  

The researchers see the method as having potential for mass production and eventual commercial use of a brazzein-based sweetener. They also believe that genetic modifications could be made in the yeast to increase the yield even further.

Journal Reference:

J. Agric. Food Chem., 2016, 64 (32), pp 6312–6316
Publication Date (Web): July 28, 2016

“Improved Secretory Production of the Sweet-Tasting Protein, Brazzein, in Kluyveromyces lactis”