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Microb Cell Fact. 2013 Mar 28;12:29. doi: 10.1186/1475-2859-12-29.

The metabolic costs of improving ethanol yield by reducing glycerol formation capacity under anaerobic conditions in Saccharomyces cerevisiae.

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Université de Toulouse, INSA, UPS, INP, LISBP, 135 Av, de Rangueil, F-31077 Toulouse, France.



Finely regulating the carbon flux through the glycerol pathway by regulating the expression of the rate controlling enzyme, glycerol-3-phosphate dehydrogenase (GPDH), has been a promising approach to redirect carbon from glycerol to ethanol and thereby increasing the ethanol yield in ethanol production. Here, strains engineered in the promoter of GPD1 and deleted in GPD2 were used to investigate the possibility of reducing glycerol production of Saccharomyces cerevisiae without jeopardising its ability to cope with process stress during ethanol production. For this purpose, the mutant strains TEFmut7 and TEFmut2 with different GPD1 residual expression were studied in Very High Ethanol Performance (VHEP) fed-batch process under anaerobic conditions.


Both strains showed a drastic reduction of the glycerol yield by 44 and 61% while the ethanol yield improved by 2 and 7% respectively. TEFmut2 strain showing the highest ethanol yield was accompanied by a 28% reduction of the biomass yield. The modulation of the glycerol formation led to profound redox and energetic changes resulting in a reduction of the ATP yield (YATP) and a modulation of the production of organic acids (acetate, pyruvate and succinate). Those metabolic rearrangements resulted in a loss of ethanol and stress tolerance of the mutants, contrarily to what was previously observed under aerobiosis.


This work demonstrates the potential of fine-tuned pathway engineering, particularly when a compromise has to be found between high product yield on one hand and acceptable growth, productivity and stress resistance on the other hand. Previous study showed that, contrarily to anaerobiosis, the resulting gain in ethanol yield was accompanied with no loss of ethanol tolerance under aerobiosis. Moreover those mutants were still able to produce up to 90 gl-1 ethanol in an anaerobic SSF process. Fine tuning metabolic strategy may then open encouraging possibilities for further developing robust strains with improved ethanol yield.

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