The ability of Saccharomyces cerevisiae to efficiently produce high levels of ethanol through glycolysis has been the focus of much scientific and industrial activity. Despite the accumulated knowledge regarding glycolysis, the modification of flux through this pathway to modify ethanol yields has proved difficult. Here, we report on the systematic screening of 66 strains with deletion mutations of genes encoding enzymes involved in central carbohydrate metabolism for altered ethanol yields. Five of these strains showing the most prominent changes in carbon flux were selected for further investigation. The genes were representative of trehalose biosynthesis (TPS1, encoding trehalose-6-phosphate synthase), central glycolysis (TDH3, encoding glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase), the oxidative pentose phosphate pathway (ZWF1, encoding glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase), and the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle (ACO1 and ACO2, encoding aconitase isoforms 1 and 2). Two strains exhibited lower ethanol yields than the wild type (tps1? and tdh3?), while the remaining three showed higher ethanol yields. To validate these findings in an industrial yeast strain, the TPS1 gene was selected as a good candidate for genetic modification to alter flux to ethanol during alcoholic fermentation in wine. Using low-strength promoters active at different stages of fermentation, the expression of the TPS1 gene was slightly upregulated, resulting in a decrease in ethanol production and an increase in trehalose biosynthesis during fermentation. Thus, the mutant screening approach was successful in terms of identifying target genes for genetic modification in commercial yeast strains with the aim of producing lower-ethanol wines.
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