Volatile thiols such as 4-methyl-4-sulfanylpentan-2-one (4MSP) and 3-sulfanylhexan-1-ol (3SH) are aromatic molecules having an important organoleptic impact on white wines. These components are produced from inodorous nonvolatile cysteinylated precursors by Saccharomyces cerevisiae metabolic activity during alcoholic fermentation. Here we provide a new insight into the genetic determinism of the production of volatile thiols by yeast. Using a gene deletion approach, we investigated the role of three yeast beta-lyases and demonstrate that Irc7p, a putative cystathionine beta-lyase, is one of the main proteins catalyzing the 4MSP and 3SH release under enological conditions. Moreover, we demonstrate that Ure2p/Gln3p proteins mainly control the bioconversion of volatile thiols by the transcriptional regulation of the IRC7 gene through the general mechanism of nitrogen catabolic repression. Finally, our findings suggest that the enantiomer balance of 3SH may be modulated by activating specifically stereoselective enzymes such as Irc7p.
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