Biotechnology Letters

, Volume 33, Issue 2, pp 285–292 | Cite as

Identification of glycolaldehyde as the key inhibitor of bioethanol fermentation by yeast and genome-wide analysis of its toxicity

  • Lahiru N. Jayakody
  • Nobuyuki Hayashi
  • Hiroshi Kitagaki
Original Research Paper


Degradation of lignocellulose with pressurised hot water is an efficient method of bioethanol production. However, the resultant solution inhibits ethanol fermentation by Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Here, we first report that glycolaldehyde, which is formed when lignocellulose is treated with pressurised hot water, inhibits ethanol fermentation. The final concentration of glycolaldehyde formed by the treatment of lignocellulose with pressurised hot water ranges from 1 to 24 mM, and 1–10 mM glycolaldehyde was sufficient to inhibit fermentation. This result indicates that glycolaldehyde is one of the main substances responsible for inhibiting fermentation after pressurised hot water degradation of lignocellulose. Genome-wide screening of S. cerevisiae revealed that genes encoding alcohol dehydrogenase, methylglyoxal reductase, polysomes, and the ubiquitin ligase complex are required for glycolaldehyde tolerance. These novel findings will provide new perspectives on breeding yeast for bioethanol production from biomass treated with pressurised hot water.


Bioethanol Glycolaldehyde Yeast Lignocellulose Genome 



Synthetic complete medium


Complete supplement mixture


Standard error of the mean



NH first discovered the inhibitory effect of glycolaldehyde on yeast fermentation. HK designed and supervised the whole research. LNJ performed most of the experiments. HK wrote the manuscript.

Supplementary material

10529_2010_437_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (115 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 114 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Environmental Sciences, Faculty of AgricultureSaga UniversitySagaJapan
  2. 2.Department of Applied Biological Sciences, Faculty of AgricultureSaga UniversitySagaJapan

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