The use of plastic produced from non-renewable resources constitutes a major environmental problem of the modern society. Polylactide polymers (PLA) have recently gained enormous attention as one possible substitution of petroleum derived polymers. A prerequisite for high quality PLA production is the provision of optically pure lactic acid, which cannot be obtained by chemical synthesis in an economical way. Microbial fermentation is therefore the commercial option to obtain lactic acid as monomer for PLA production. However, one major economic hurdle for commercial lactic acid production as basis for PLA is the costly separation procedure, which is needed to recover and purify the product from the fermentation broth. Yeasts, such as Saccharomyces cerevisiae (bakers yeast) offer themselves as production organisms because they can tolerate low pH and grow on mineral media what eases the purification of the acid. However, naturally yeasts do not produce lactic acid. By metabolic engineering, ethanol was exchanged with lactic acid as end product of fermentation. A vast amount of effort has been invested into the development of yeasts for lactic acid production since the first paper on this topic by Dequin and Barre appeared 1994. Now yeasts are very close to industrial exploitation - here we summarize the developments in this field.
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