From Nature to Lab: Sustainable Bacterial Cellulose Production and Modification with Synthetic Biology
Bacterial cellulose (BC) is a macromolecule with versatile applications in medicine, pharmacy, biotechnology, cosmetology, food and food packaging, ecology, and electronics. Although many bacteria synthesize BC, the most efficient BC producers are certain species of the genera Komagataeibacter and Novacetimonas. These are also food-grade bacteria, simplifying their utilization at industrial facilities. The basic principles of BC synthesis are known from studies of Komagataeibacter xylinus, which became a model species for studying BC at genetic and molecular levels. Cellulose can also be of plant origin, but BC surpasses its purity. Moreover, the laboratory production of BC enables in situ modification into functionalized material with incorporated molecules during its synthesis. The possibility of growing Komagataeibacter and Novacetimonas species on various organic substrates and agricultural and food waste compounds also follows the green and sustainable economy principles. Further intervention into BC synthesis was enabled by genetic engineering tools, subsequently directing it into the field of synthetic biology. This review paper presents the development of the fascinating field of BC synthesis at the molecular level, seeking sustainable ways for its production and its applications towards genetic modifications of bacterial strains for producing novel types of living biomaterials using the flexible metabolic machinery of bacteria.