A vanillin-tolerant strain of Saccharomyces cerevisiae was screened and its intracellular ergosterol levels were compared with several laboratory yeast strains to study the potential relationship between ergosterol content and vanillin tolerance. Saccharomyces cerevisiae NBRC1950 was selected as a vanillin-tolerant strain. Its ergosterol content was higher than those of the laboratory strains. The results of DNA microarray and quantitative reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction analysis showed that five genes involved in ergosterol biosynthesis (ERG28, HMG1, MCR1, ERG5, and ERG7) were upregulated in NBRC 1950 compared with strain X2180, suggesting that high expression of genes involved in ergosterol biosynthesis may cause high ergosterol content in strain NBRC 1950. The S. cerevisiae HX strain, which was a high-ergosterol-containing strain derived from X2180, was more tolerant to vanillin than the parental strain, suggesting that high ergosterol content may, in part, be responsible for vanillin tolerance. These findings provide a biotechnological basis for the molecular engineering of S. cerevisiae with increased tolerance to vanillin.
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