The efficient fermentation of mixed substrates is essential for the microbial conversion of second-generation feedstocks, including pectin-rich waste streams such as citrus peel and sugar beet pulp. Galacturonic acid is a major constituent of hydrolysates of these pectin-rich materials. The yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, the main producer of bioethanol, cannot use this sugar acid. The impact of galacturonic acid on alcoholic fermentation by S. cerevisiae was investigated with anaerobic batch cultures grown on mixtures of glucose and galactose at various galacturonic acid concentrations and on a mixture of glucose, xylose, and arabinose. In cultures grown at pH 5.0, which is well above the pK(a) value of galacturonic acid (3.51), the addition of 10 g. liter(-1) galacturonic acid did not affect galactose fermentation kinetics and growth. In cultures grown at pH 3.5, the addition of 10 g. liter(-1) galacturonic acid did not significantly affect glucose consumption. However, at this lower pH, galacturonic acid completely inhibited growth on galactose and reduced galactose consumption rates by 87%. Additionally, it was shown that galacturonic acid strongly inhibits the fermentation of xylose and arabinose by the engineered pentose-fermenting S. cerevisiae strain IMS0010. The data indicate that inhibition occurs when nondissociated galacturonic acid is present extracellularly and corroborate the hypothesis that a combination of a decreased substrate uptake rate due to competitive inhibition on Gal2p, an increased energy requirement to maintain cellular homeostasis, and/or an accumulation of galacturonic acid 1-phosphate contributes to the inhibition. The role of galacturonic acid as an inhibitor of sugar fermentation should be considered in the design of yeast fermentation processes based on pectin-rich feedstocks.
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