Genomic, transcriptomic, and metabolic characterization of 2-Phenylethanol-resistant Saccharomyces cerevisiae obtained by evolutionary engineering

Can Holyavkin, Burcu Turanlı-Yıldız, Ülkü Yılmaz, Ceren Alkım, Mevlüt Arslan, Alican Topaloğlu, Halil İbrahim Kısakesen, Gustavo de Billerbeck, Jean Marie François*, Z. Petek Çakar*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


2-Phenylethanol is an aromatic compound commonly used in the food, cosmetic, and pharmaceutical industries. Due to increasing demand for natural products by consumers, the production of this flavor by microbial fermentation is gaining interest, as a sustainable alternative to chemical synthesis or expensive plant extraction, both processes relying on the use of fossil resources. However, the drawback of the fermentation process is the high toxicity of 2-phenylethanol to the producing microorganism. The aim of this study was to obtain a 2-phenylethanol-resistant Saccharomyces cerevisiae strain by in vivo evolutionary engineering and characterize the adapted yeast at the genomic, transcriptomic and metabolic levels. For this purpose, the tolerance to 2-phenylethanol was developed by gradually increasing the concentration of this flavor compound through successive batch cultivations, leading to an adapted strain that could tolerate 3.4 g/L of 2-phenylethanol, which was about 3-times better than the reference strain. Genome sequencing of the adapted strain identified point mutations in several genes, notably in HOG1 that encodes the Mitogen-Activated Kinase of the high-osmolarity signaling pathway. As this mutation is localized in the phosphorylation lip of this protein, it likely resulted in a hyperactive protein kinase. Transcriptomic analysis of the adapted strain supported this suggestion by revealing a large set of upregulated stress-responsive genes that could be explained in great part by HOG1-dependent activation of the Msn2/Msn4 transcription factor. Another relevant mutation was found in PDE2 encoding the low affinity cAMP phosphodiesterase, the missense mutation of which may lead to hyperactivation of this enzyme and thereby enhance the stressful state of the 2-phenylethanol adapted strain. In addition, the mutation in CRH1 that encodes a chitin transglycosylase implicated in cell wall remodeling could account for the increased resistance of the adapted strain to the cell wall-degrading enzyme lyticase. Finally, the potent upregulation of ALD3 and ALD4 encoding NAD+ -dependent aldehyde dehydrogenase together with the observed phenylacetate resistance of the evolved strain suggest a resistance mechanism involving conversion of 2-phenylethanol into phenylacetaldehyde and phenylacetate implicating these dehydrogenases.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1148065
JournalFrontiers in Microbiology
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2023 Holyavkin, Turanlı-Yıldız, Yılmaz, Alkım, Arslan, Topaloğlu, Kısakesen, de Billerbeck, François and Çakar.


This study was supported by Istanbul Technical University (ITU) Research Funds (BAP Project no: 36128, PI: ZÇ) and COST Action FA0907 (to GB and JF).

FundersFunder number
European Cooperation in Science and TechnologyFA0907
Istanbul Teknik Üniversitesi36128


    • 2-phenylethanol
    • Saccharomyces cerevisiae
    • adaptive laboratory evolution
    • environmental stress response
    • evolutionary engineering
    • genomic analysis
    • stress resistance
    • transcriptomic analysis


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