Conversion of glucose to lactic acid is stoichiometrically equivalent to ethanol formation with respect to ATP formation from substrate-level phosphorylation, redox equivalents and product yield. However, anaerobic growth cannot be sustained in homolactate fermenting Saccharomyces cerevisiae. ATP-dependent export of the lactate anion and/or proton, resulting in net zero ATP formation, is suspected as the underlying cause. In an effort to understand the mechanisms behind the decreased lactic acid production rate in anaerobic homolactate cultures of S. cerevisiae, aerobic carbon-limited chemostats were performed and subjected to anaerobic perturbations in the presence of high glucose concentrations. Intracellular measurements of adenosine phosphates confirmed ATP depletion and decreased energy charge immediately upon anaerobicity. Unexpectedly, readily available sources of carbon and energy, trehalose and glycogen, were not activated in homolactate strains as they were in reference strains that produce ethanol. Finally, the anticipated increase in maximal velocity (V(max)) of glycolytic enzymes was not observed in homolactate fermentation suggesting the absence of protein synthesis that may be attributed to decreased energy availability. Essentially, anaerobic homolactate fermentation results in energy depletion, which, in turn, hinders protein synthesis, central carbon metabolism and subsequent energy generation.
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