Glycerol is a residue generated during biodiesel production and represents around 10% of the total product output. Biodiesel production is currently having a significant impact on glycerol price, leading to an increased interest in the use of glycerol as a cheap substrate for fermentation processes. We have analysed the growth kinetics of two wild-type strains of Saccharomyces cerevisiae grown on synthetic media containing glycerol as the sole carbon and energy source. Both strains were initially unable to grow when cultivated under these conditions, and an unusually long lag phase was necessary prior to the appearance of slow-growing cells. Following the application of an "evolutionary engineering" approach, we obtained S. cerevisiae strains with an improved ability to grow on glycerol. We report here the isolation of an evolved strain that exhibits a reduction of the lag phase, a threefold increase of the specific growth rate and a higher glycerol consumption rate compared to wild-type strains. The evolved strain has retained its fermentative activity, producing ethanol at the same rate and yield as the wild type. Interestingly, the yeast biomass obtained by cultivating the evolved strain on synthetic glycerol-based media also showed a high viability after prolonged storage at -20?C. The strategy adopted in our study could be easily applied to obtain S. cerevisiae strains with new industrially relevant traits, such as an improved ability to use cheap substrates and high resistance to freeze and thaw procedures.
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