Dr. Yong-Su Jin from the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, and Drs. Guo-Chang Zhang and Jing-Jing Liu from the Institute for Genomic Biology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have developed a new method of producing allulose, a natural rare sugar from sucrose using engineered yeast.
This invention will enable economic production of allulose that can be used as a functional low-calorie sweetener. The current production of allulose is based on reactions with purified enzymes or bioconversions with microbes surface displayed with D-psicose-3-epimerase enzymes. The immobilized enzymes need to be frequently replaced because of the half-life of several days or weeks. The enzyme replacement is costly, and influences the stability of the conversion process as enzymatic activities are decaying with time. The new method enables direct conversion of inexpensive and abundant sugarcane juice into allulose and ethanol, and has potential to be integrated into the existing sugarcane ethanol plants.