Sucrose is the major carbon source used by Saccharomyces cerevisiae during production of baker's yeast, fuel ethanol and several distilled beverages. It is generally accepted that sucrose fermentation proceeds through extracellular hydrolysis of the sugar, mediated by the periplasmic invertase, producing glucose and fructose that are transported into the cells and metabolized. In the present work we analyzed the contribution to sucrose fermentation of a poorly characterized pathway of sucrose utilization by S. cerevisiae cells, the active transport of the sugar through the plasma membrane and its intracellular hydrolysis. A yeast strain that lacks the major hexose transporters (hxt1-hxt7 and gal2) is incapable of growing on or fermenting glucose or fructose. Our results show that this hxt-null strain is still able to ferment sucrose due to direct uptake of the sugar into the cells. Deletion of the AGT1 gene, which encodes a high-affinity sucrose-H(+) symporter, rendered cells incapable of sucrose fermentation. Since sucrose is not an inducer of the permease, expression of the AGT1 must be constitutive in order to allow growth of the hxt-null strain on sucrose. The molecular characterization of active sucrose transport and fermentation by S. cerevisiae cells opens new opportunities to optimize yeasts for sugarcane-based industrial processes. Copyright (c) 2004 S. Karger AG, Basel.
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