A β-galactosidase from Kluyveromyces lactis was found to specifically catalyze hydrolysis of the glycosyl ester linkage of stevioside to yield steviolbioside, a rare sweetener that also exists in Stevia rebaudiana leaves. In a packed bed reactor, a reaction coupling separation was realized and a production yield of steviolbioside reached 90% in 6 h. The hydrolysis product steviolbioside presented higher cytoxicity on human normal cells (hepatocytes cell L02 and intestinal epithelial cell T84) than stevioside did. Comparing to the typical chemotherapy agent, 5-fluorouracil (5-FU), steviolbioside presents much lower cytotoxicity on all assayed human normal cells; it presented notable inhibition on human hepatocarcinoma cell Hep3B, human breast cancer cell MDA-MB-231 and human pancreatic cancer cell BxPC-3. The remarkable inhibition on MDA-MB-231 cells makes steviolbioside a potential remedy for human breast cancer, when steviolbioside is served as a natural sweetener.
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