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Eur J Biochem. 2003 Aug;270(15):3189-95.

Weak organic acid stress inhibits aromatic amino acid uptake by yeast, causing a strong influence of amino acid auxotrophies on the phenotypes of membrane transporter mutants.

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Department of Molecular Genetics, University and BioCenter of Vienna, Austria.


The ability of yeasts to grow in the presence of weak organic acid preservatives is an important cause of food spoilage. Many of the determinants of acetate resistance in Saccharomyces cerevisiae differ from the determinants of resistance to the more lipophilic sorbate and benzoate. Interestingly, we show in this study that hypersensitivity to both acetate and sorbate results when the cells have auxotrophic requirements for aromatic amino acids. In tryptophan biosynthetic pathway mutants, this weak acid hypersensitivity is suppressed by supplementing the medium with high levels of tryptophan or, in the case of sorbate sensitivity, by overexpressing the Tat2p high affinity tryptophan permease. Weak acid stress therefore inhibits uptake of aromatic amino acids from the medium. This allows auxotrophic requirements for these amino acids to strongly influence the resistance phenotypes of mutant strains. This property must be taken into consideration when using these phenotypes to attribute functional assignments to genes. We show that the acetate sensitivity phenotype previously ascribed to yeast mutants lacking the Pdr12p and Azr1p plasma membrane transporters is an artefact arising from the use of trp1 mutant strains. These transporters do not confer resistance to high acetate levels and, in prototrophs, their presence is actually detrimental for this resistance.

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