Biochemistry, Department of


Date of this Version



Casey et al. Biotechnology for Biofuels 2013, 6:83


This document is published under a Creative Commons/Open Access license.


Background: A challenge currently facing the cellulosic biofuel industry is the efficient fermentation of both C5 and C6 sugars in the presence of inhibitors. To overcome this challenge, microorganisms that are capable of mixed-sugar fermentation need to be further developed for increased inhibitor tolerance. However, this requires an understanding of the physiological impact of inhibitors on the microorganism. This paper investigates the effect of salts on Saccharomyces cerevisiae 424A(LNH-ST), a yeast strain capable of effectively co-fermenting glucose and xylose.

Results: In this study, we show that salts can be significant inhibitors of S. cerevisiae. All 6 pairs of anions (chloride and sulfate) and cations (sodium, potassium, and ammonium) tested resulted in reduced cell growth rate, glucose consumption rate, and ethanol production rate. In addition, the data showed that the xylose consumption is more strongly affected by salts than glucose consumption at all concentrations. At a NaCl concentration of 0.5M, the xylose consumption rate was reduced by 64.5% compared to the control. A metabolomics study found a shift in metabolism to increased glycerol production during xylose fermentation when salt was present, which was confirmed by an increase in extracellular glycerol titers by 4 fold. There were significant differences between the different cations. The salts with potassium cations were the least inhibitory. Surprisingly, although salts of sulfate produced twice the concentration of cations as compared to salts of chloride, the degree of inhibition was the same with one exception. Potassium salts of sulfate were less inhibitory than potassium paired with chloride, suggesting that chloride is more inhibitory than sulfate.

Conclusions: When developing microorganisms and processes for cellulosic ethanol production, it is important to consider salt concentrations as it has a significant negative impact on yeast performance, especially with regards to xylose fermentation.