BACKGROUND: Saccharomyces cerevisiae wine strains can develop stuck or sluggish fermentations when nutrients are scarce or suboptimal. Nutrient sensing and signaling pathways, such as PKA, TORC1 and Snf1, work coordinately to adapt growth and metabolism to the amount and balance of the different nutrients in the medium. This has been exhaustively studied in laboratory strains of S. cerevisiae and laboratory media, but much less under industrial conditions.
RESULTS: Inhibitors of such pathways, like rapamycin or 2-deoxyglucose, failed to discriminate between commercial wine yeast strains with different nutritional requirements, but evidenced genetic variability among industrial isolates, and between laboratory and commercial strains. Most signaling pathways involve events of protein phosphorylation that can be followed as markers of their activity. The main pathway to promote growth in the presence of nitrogen, the TORC1 pathway, measured by the phosphorylation of Rps6 and Par32, proved active at the very start of fermentation, mainly on day 1, and ceased soon afterward, even before cellular growth stopped. Transcription factor Gln3, which activates genes subject to nitrogen catabolite repression, was also active for the first hours, even when ammonium and amino acids were still present in media. Snf1 kinase was activated only when glucose was exhausted under laboratory conditions, but was active from early fermentation stages. The same results were generally obtained when nitrogen was limiting, which indicates a unique pathway activation pattern in winemaking. As PKA remained active throughout fermentation, it could be the central pathway that controls others, provided sugars are present.
CONCLUSIONS: Wine fermentation is a distinct environmental situation from growth in laboratory media in molecular terms. The mechanisms involved in glucose and nitrogen repression respond differently under winemaking conditions.
Keywords: Nitrogen Catabolite Repression Nutrient signaling pathways Saccharomyces cerevisiae Snf1 TORC1 Wine