Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

New insights into the Saccharomyces cerevisiae fermentation switch: Dynamic transcriptional response to anaerobicity and glucose-excess

Joost van den Brink, Pascale Daran-Lapujade*, Jack T Pronk and Johannes H de Winde

Author Affiliations

Kluyver Centre for Genomics of Industrial Fermentation and Department of Biotechnology, Delft University of Technology, Julianalaan 67, 2628 BC Delft, The Netherlands

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BMC Genomics 2008, 9:100  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-9-100

Published: 27 February 2008



The capacity of respiring cultures of Saccharomyces cerevisiae to immediately switch to fast alcoholic fermentation upon a transfer to anaerobic sugar-excess conditions is a key characteristic of Saccharomyces cerevisiae in many of its industrial applications. This transition was studied by exposing aerobic glucose-limited chemostat cultures grown at a low specific growth rate to two simultaneous perturbations: oxygen depletion and relief of glucose limitation.


The shift towards fully fermentative conditions caused a massive transcriptional reprogramming, where one third of all genes within the genome were transcribed differentially. The changes in transcript levels were mostly driven by relief from glucose-limitation. After an initial strong response to the addition of glucose, the expression profile of most transcriptionally regulated genes displayed a clear switch at 30 minutes. In this respect, a striking difference was observed between the transcript profiles of genes encoding ribosomal proteins and those encoding ribosomal biogenesis components. Not all regulated genes responded with this binary profile. A group of 87 genes showed a delayed and steady increase in expression that specifically responded to anaerobiosis.


Our study demonstrated that, despite the complexity of this multiple-input perturbation, the transcriptional responses could be categorized and biologically interpreted. By comparing this study with public datasets representing dynamic and steady conditions, 14 up-regulated and 11 down-regulated genes were determined to be anaerobic specific. Therefore, these can be seen as true "signature" transcripts for anaerobicity under dynamic as well as under steady state conditions.