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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2003 Jan;69(1):113-21.

Oxygen consumption by anaerobic Saccharomyces cerevisiae under enological conditions: effect on fermentation kinetics.

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  • 1Laboratoire de Microbiologie et de Technologie des Fermentations, Unité Mixte de Recherches Sciences pour l'oenologie, Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique, F-34060 Montpellier Cedex 1, France.


The anaerobic growth of the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae normally requires the addition of molecular oxygen, which is used to synthesize sterols and unsaturated fatty acids (UFAs). A single oxygen pulse can stimulate enological fermentation, but the biochemical pathways involved in this phenomenon remain to be elucidated. We showed that the addition of oxygen (0.3 to 1.5 mg/g [dry mass] of yeast) to a lipid-depleted medium mainly resulted in the synthesis of the sterols and UFAs required for cell growth. However, the addition of oxygen during the stationary phase in a medium containing excess ergosterol and oleic acid increased the specific fermentation rate, increased cell viability, and shortened the fermentation period. Neither the respiratory chain nor de novo protein synthesis was required for these medium- and long-term effects. As de novo lipid synthesis may be involved in ethanol tolerance, we studied the effect of oxygen addition on sterol and UFA auxotrophs (erg1 and ole1 mutants, respectively). Both mutants exhibited normal anaerobic fermentation kinetics. However, only the ole1 mutant strain responded to the oxygen pulse during the stationary phase, suggesting that de novo sterol synthesis is required for the oxygen-induced increase of the specific fermentation rate. In conclusion, the sterol pathway appears to contribute significantly to the oxygen consumption capacities of cells under anaerobic conditions. Nevertheless, we demonstrated the existence of alternative oxygen consumption pathways that are neither linked to the respiratory chain nor linked to heme, sterol, or UFA synthesis. These pathways dissipate the oxygen added during the stationary phase, without affecting the fermentation kinetics.

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