Elucidating aromatic acid tolerance at low pH in Saccharomyces cerevisiae using adaptive laboratory evolution

Rui Pereira, Elsayed Tharwat Tolba Mohamed, Mohammad S Radi, Markus J Herrgård, Adam M Feist, Jens Nielsen, Yun Chen

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Toxicity from the external presence or internal production of compounds can reduce the growth and viability of microbial cell factories and compromise productivity. Aromatic compounds are generally toxic for microorganisms, which makes their production in microbial hosts challenging. Here we use adaptive laboratory evolution to generate Saccharomyces cerevisiae mutants tolerant to two aromatic acids, coumaric acid and ferulic acid. The evolution experiments were performed at low pH (3.5) to reproduce conditions typical of industrial processes. Mutant strains tolerant to levels of aromatic acids near the solubility limit were then analyzed by whole genome sequencing, which revealed prevalent point mutations in a transcriptional activator (Aro80) that is responsible for regulating the use of aromatic amino acids as the nitrogen source. Among the genes regulated by Aro80, ESBP6 was found to be responsible for increasing tolerance to aromatic acids by exporting them out of the cell. Further examination of the native function of Esbp6 revealed that this transporter can excrete fusel acids (byproducts of aromatic amino acid catabolism) and this role is shared with at least one additional transporter native to S. cerevisiae (Pdr12). Besides conferring tolerance to aromatic acids, ESBP6 overexpression was also shown to significantly improve the secretion in coumaric acid production strains. Overall, we showed that regulating the activity of transporters is a major mechanism to improve tolerance to aromatic acids. These findings can be used to modulate the intracellular concentration of aromatic compounds to optimize the excretion of such products while keeping precursor molecules inside the cell.
Original languageEnglish
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number45
Pages (from-to)27954-27961
Publication statusPublished - 2020


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