Quantitative Physiology of Non-Energy-Limited Retentostat Cultures of Saccharomyces cerevisiae at Near-Zero Specific Growth Rates

Yaya Liu, Anissa El Masoudi, Jack T. Pronk, Walter M. van Gulik

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So far, the physiology of Saccharomyces cerevisiae at near-zero growth rates has been studied in retentostat cultures with a growth-limiting supply of the carbon and energy source. Despite its relevance in nature and industry, the near-zero growth physiology of S. cerevisiae under conditions where growth is limited by the supply of non-energy substrates remains largely unexplored. This study analyzes the physiology of S. cerevisiae in aerobic chemostat and retentostat cultures grown under either ammonium or phosphate limitation. To compensate for loss of extracellular nitrogen- or phosphorus-containing compounds, establishing near-zero growth rates (μ < 0.002 h-1) in these retentostats required addition of low concentrations of ammonium or phosphate to reservoir media. In chemostats as well as in retentostats, strongly reduced cellular contents of the growth-limiting element (nitrogen or phosphorus) and high accumulation levels of storage carbohydrates were observed. Even at near-zero growth rates, culture viability in non-energy-limited retentostats remained above 80% and ATP synthesis was still sufficient to maintain an adequate energy status and keep cells in a metabolically active state. Compared to similar glucose-limited retentostat cultures, the nitrogen- and phosphate-limited cultures showed aerobic fermentation and a partial uncoupling of catabolism and anabolism. The possibility to achieve stable, near-zero growth cultures of S. cerevisiae under nitrogen or phosphorus limitation offers interesting prospects for high-yield production of bio-based chemicals.IMPORTANCE The yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae is a commonly used microbial host for production of various biochemical compounds. From a physiological perspective, biosynthesis of these compounds competes with biomass formation in terms of carbon and/or energy equivalents. Fermentation processes functioning at extremely low or near-zero growth rates would prevent loss of feedstock to biomass production. Establishing S. cerevisiae cultures in which growth is restricted by the limited supply of a non-energy substrate therefore could have a wide range of industrial applications but remains largely unexplored. In this work we accomplished near-zero growth of S. cerevisiae through limited supply of a non-energy nutrient, namely, the nitrogen or phosphorus source, and carried out a quantitative physiological study of the cells under these conditions. The possibility to achieve near-zero-growth S. cerevisiae cultures through limited supply of a non-energy nutrient may offer interesting prospects to develop novel fermentation processes for high-yield production of bio-based chemicals.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere01161-19
Number of pages15
JournalApplied and Environmental Microbiology
Issue number20
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Bibliographical note

Accepted Author Manuscript


  • carbon excess
  • near-zero growth
  • non-energy limitation
  • retentostat
  • yeast physiology


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