The yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae is an important microorganism for the ethanol fuel industry. As with many microorganisms, the production and accumulation of certain metabolites, such as ethanol, can have a detrimental effect on cell growth and productivity. Yeast cells containing a higher concentration of phosphatidylinositol (PI) in the cellular membrane, due to inositol supplementation in the growth media, have been shown to tolerate and produce higher concentrations of ethanol. The specific goal of our research was to assess the effects of inositol supplementation in the growth media as well as to compare the ethanol tolerance of the wild-type S. cerevisiae to a mutant, the opi1 strain (opi=overproduction of inositol). The OPI1 gene product is a negative regulatory factor that controls the transcription of the INO1 structural gene, which encodes the enzyme catalyzing the limiting step in the biosynthesis of inositol, that is, the conversion of glucose-6-phosphate to inositol-3-phosphate. Upon the deletion of the OPI1 gene, the cell will constitutively produce inositol, regardless of the extracellular inositol concentration. Inositol supplementation in cultures of wild-type cells increased ethanol tolerance in terms of cell viability. Cells grown in -I media had a 20% higher specific death rate than cells grown in +I media when exposed to 15% ethanol. The opi1 strain, with the ability to constitutively produce inositol regardless of media composition, showed less inhibition of cell growth in the presence of ethanol than did the wild-type strain, particularly in inositol-free media. We conclude that the introduction of an opi1 mutation in yeast results in an inherent increase in PI levels and constitutive biosynthesis of inositol that, in turn, will reduce the cost of supplementing inositol into the media to achieve a higher ethanol tolerance.
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