Initiation of anaerobic growth of Saccharomyces cerevisiae by amino acids or nucleic acid bases: ergosterol and unsaturated fatty acids cannot replace oxygen in minimal media

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Nine out of ten industrially important strains of Saccharomyces cerevisiae did not grow in minimal media under anaerobic conditions even when ergosterol and unsaturated fatty acids were provided. Anaerobiosis was maintained either by flushing the culture flasks with prepurified nitrogen or by incubating the flasks in an anaerobic chamber. Traces of oxygen present in ‘prepurified nitrogen gas’ were sufficient to initiate yeast growth and on removal of the oxygen by catalytic means the yeasts failed to grow. The yeast grew very well anaerobically if the medium was supplemented with a mixture of amino acids or with a mixture of purines and pyrimidines. The growth initiated by including a mixture of amino acids was further enhanced when the medium was supplemented with ergosterol and an unsaturated fatty acid. Since no oxygen requirement for the synthesis of amino acids or purines and pyrimidines has been demonstrated, growth promotion by these compounds under anaerobic conditions is most likely not by eliminating the need for oxygen for their synthesis. We suggest that the amino acids and the nucleic acid bases yielded, through some hitherto unknown reactions, small amounts of a molecular or usable form of oxygen which allowed key reactions essential for ‘anaerobic’ growth to proceed.

Received 16 July 1998/ Accepted in revised form 8 October 1998