Changes in lipid metabolism convey acid tolerance in Saccharomyces cerevisiae

Zhong-peng Guo, Sakda Khoomrung, Jens Nielsen, Lisbeth Olsson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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Background: The yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae plays an essential role in the fermentation of lignocellulosic hydrolysates. Weak organic acids in lignocellulosic hydrolysate can hamper the use of this renewable resource for fuel and chemical production. Plasma-membrane remodeling has recently been found to be involved in acquiring tolerance to organic acids, but the mechanisms responsible remain largely unknown. Therefore, it is essential to understand the underlying mechanisms of acid tolerance of S. cerevisiae for developing robust industrial strains.Results: We have performed a comparative analysis of lipids and fatty acids in S. cerevisiae grown in the presence of four different weak acids. The general response of the yeast to acid stress was found to be the accumulation of triacylglycerols and the degradation of steryl esters. In addition, a decrease in phosphatidic acid, phosphatidylcholine, phosphatidylserine and phosphatidylethanolamine, and an increase in phosphatidylinositol were observed. Loss of cardiolipin in the mitochondria membrane may be responsible for the dysfunction of mitochondria and the dramatic decrease in the rate of respiration of S. cerevisiae under acid stress. Interestingly, the accumulation of ergosterol was found to be a protective mechanism of yeast exposed to organic acids, and the ERG1 gene in ergosterol biosynthesis played a key in ergosterol-mediated acid tolerance, as perturbing the expression of this gene caused rapid loss of viability. Interestingly, overexpressing OLE1 resulted in the increased levels of oleic acid (18:1n-9) and an increase in the unsaturation index of fatty acids in the plasma membrane, resulting in higher tolerance to acetic, formic and levulinic acid, while this change was found to be detrimental to cells exposed to lipophilic cinnamic acid.Conclusions: Comparison of lipid profiles revealed different remodeling of lipids, FAs and the unsaturation index of the FAs in the cell membrane in response of S. cerevisiae to acetic, formic, levulinic and cinnamic acid, depending on the properties of the acid. In future work, it will be necessary to combine lipidome and transcriptome analysis to gain a better understanding of the underlying regulation network and interactions between central carbon metabolism (e.g., glycolysis, TCA cycle) and lipid biosynthesis.
Original languageEnglish
Article number297
JournalBiotechnology for Biofuels
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Weak acids
  • Sustainable
  • Yeast physiology
  • S. cerevisiae
  • Oxidative stress


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