Engineering proton-coupled hexose uptake in Saccharomyces cerevisiae for improved ethanol yield

Sophie C. de Valk, Susan E. Bouwmeester, Erik de Hulster, Robert Mans*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
17 Downloads (Pure)


Background: In the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, which is widely applied for industrial bioethanol production, uptake of hexoses is mediated by transporters with a facilitated diffusion mechanism. In anaerobic cultures, a higher ethanol yield can be achieved when transport of hexoses is proton-coupled, because of the lower net ATP yield of sugar dissimilation. In this study, the facilitated diffusion transport system for hexose sugars of S. cerevisiae was replaced by hexose–proton symport. Results: Introduction of heterologous glucose– or fructose–proton symporters in an hxt0 yeast background strain (derived from CEN.PK2-1C) restored growth on the corresponding sugar under aerobic conditions. After applying an evolutionary engineering strategy to enable anaerobic growth, the hexose–proton symporter-expressing strains were grown in anaerobic, hexose-limited chemostats on synthetic defined medium, which showed that the biomass yield of the resulting strains was decreased by 44.0-47.6%, whereas the ethanol yield had increased by up to 17.2% (from 1.51 to 1.77 mol mol hexose−1) compared to an isogenic strain expressing the hexose uniporter HXT5. To apply this strategy to increase the ethanol yield on sucrose, we constructed a platform strain in which all genes encoding hexose transporters, disaccharide transporters and disaccharide hydrolases were deleted, after which a combination of a glucose–proton symporter, fructose–proton symporter and extracellular invertase (SUC2) were introduced. After evolution, the resulting strain exhibited a 16.6% increased anaerobic ethanol yield (from 1.51 to 1.76 mol mol hexose equivalent−1) and 46.6% decreased biomass yield on sucrose. Conclusions: This study provides a proof-of-concept for the replacement of the endogenous hexose transporters of S. cerevisiae by hexose-proton symport, and the concomitant decrease in ATP yield, to greatly improve the anaerobic yield of ethanol on sugar. Moreover, the sugar-negative platform strain constructed in this study acts as a valuable starting point for future studies on sugar transport or development of cell factories requiring specific sugar transport mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish
Article number47
Number of pages16
JournalBiotechnology for Biofuels and Bioproducts
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Bioethanol
  • Energy metabolism
  • Evolutionary engineering
  • Sugar transport
  • Yeast physiology


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