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Yeast. 2008 Mar;25(3):169-77. doi: 10.1002/yea.1576.

Novel stress responses facilitate Saccharomyces cerevisiae growth in the presence of the monocarboxylate preservatives.

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Department of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, University of Sheffield, Firth Court, Western Bank, Sheffield S10 2TN, UK.


Certain yeasts are relatively resistant to the small number of monocarboxylic acids allowed in food preservation, with the result that these preservatives often have to be used in high concentrations in order to prevent spoilage. When grown at slightly acid pH, Saccharomyces cerevisiae acquires elevated resistance to these acids by means of discrete stress responses. Acquisition of resistance to acetic acid involves loss of Fps1p, the aquaglyceroporin of the plasma membrane that facilitates the passive diffusional entry of this acid into cells. Acetic acid stress transiently activates Hog1p mitogen-activated protein kinase, which then directly phosphorylates Fps1p in order to target this channel for endocytosis and degradation in the vacuole. Other carboxylate preservatives (propionate, sorbate or benzoate) are too large to traverse the Fps1p pore. Instead, being more lipophilic than acetic acid, they enter cells mainly by a process of non-facilitated diffusion across the plasma membrane. Once inside the cell, these acids activate War1p, a transcription factor that induces the gene for the Pdr12p plasma membrane ATP-binding cassette transporter. Pdr12p lowers the intracellular levels of propionate, sorbate or benzoate by catalysing the active efflux of the preservative anion from the cell. Still other mechanisms of weak acid resistance are found in Zygosaccharomyces, including a capacity for the oxidative degradation of sorbic and benzoic acids conferred by a mitochondrial monooxygenase, a system absent in S. cerevisiae.

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