Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology

, Volume 87, Issue 3, pp 829–845 | Cite as

Mechanisms of ethanol tolerance in Saccharomyces cerevisiae

  • Menggen Ma
  • Z. Lewis LiuEmail author


Saccharomyces cerevisiae is a superb ethanol producer, yet is also sensitive to higher ethanol concentrations especially under high gravity or very high gravity fermentation conditions. Ethanol tolerance is associated with interplay of complex networks at the genome level. Although significant efforts have been made to study ethanol stress response in past decades, mechanisms of ethanol tolerance are not well known. With developments of genome sequencing and genomic technologies, our understanding of yeast biology has been revolutionarily advanced. More evidence of mechanisms of ethanol tolerance have been discovered involving multiple loci, multi-stress, and complex interactions as well as signal transduction pathways and regulatory networks. Transcription dynamics and profiling studies of key gene sets including heat shock proteins provided insight into tolerance mechanisms. A transient gene expression response or a stress response to ethanol does not necessarily lead to ethanol tolerance in yeast. Reprogrammed pathways and interactions of cofactor regeneration and redox balance observed from studies of tolerant yeast demonstrated the significant importance of a time-course study for ethanol tolerance. In this review, we focus on current advances of our understanding for ethanol-tolerance mechanisms of S. cerevisiae including gene expression responses, pathway-based analysis, signal transduction and regulatory networks. A prototype of global system model for mechanisms of ethanol tolerance is presented.


Gene expression Genomic adaptation Pathway analysis Regulatory networks Stress tolerance 



The authors thank Michael A. Cotta for critically reading the manuscript and helpful suggestions. This study was supported in part by the National Research Initiative of the USDA Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service, grant number 2006-35504-17359.


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© US Government 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.U.S. Department of Agriculture, ARSBioenergy Research, National Center for Agricultural Utilization ResearchPeoriaUSA

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