Identification of furfural resistant strains of Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Saccharomyces paradoxus from a collection of environmental and industrial isolates

Sarah Field, Peter Ryden, David C Wilson, Stephen A. James, Ian Roberts, David Richardson, Keith Waldron, Tom Clarke

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Fermentation of bioethanol using lignocellulosic biomass as a raw material provides a sustainable alternative to current biofuel production methods by utilising waste food streams as raw material. Before lignocellulose can be fermented it requires physical, chemical and enzymatic treatment in order to release monosaccharides, a process that causes the chemical transformation of glucose and xylose into the cyclic aldehydes furfural and hydroxyfurfural. These furan compounds are potent inhibitors of Saccharomyces fermentation, and consequently furfural tolerant strains of Saccharomyces are required for lignocellulosic fermentation.
This study investigated yeast tolerance to furfural and hydroxyfurfural using a collection of 71 environmental and industrial isolates of the baker’s yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae and its closest relative Saccharomyces paradoxus. The Saccharomyces strains were initially screened for growth on media containing 100 mM glucose and 1.5 mg ml-1 furfural. Five strains were identified that showed a significant tolerance to growth in the presence of furfural and these were then screened for growth and ethanol production in the presence of increasing amounts (0.1-4 mg ml-1) of furfural.
Of the five furfural tolerant strains S. cerevisiae NCYC 3451 displayed the greatest furfural resistance, and was able to grow in the presence of up to 3.0 mg ml-1 furfural. Furthermore, ethanol production in this strain did not appear to be inhibited by furfural, with the highest ethanol yield observed at 3.0 mg ml-1 furfural. Although furfural resistance was not found to be a trait specific to any one particular lineage or population, three of the strains were isolated from environments where they might be continually exposed to low levels of furfural through the on-going natural degradation of lignocelluloses, and would therefore develop elevated levels of resistance to these furan compounds. Thus these strains represent good candidates for future studies of genetic variation relevant to understanding and manipulating furfural resistance and in the development of tolerant ethanologenic yeast strains for use in bioethanol production from lignocellulose processing.

Original languageEnglish
Article number33
JournalBiotechnology for Biofuels
Publication statusPublished - 26 Feb 2015


  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae
  • Saccharomyces paradoxus
  • Furfural
  • Furan
  • Ethanol
  • Lignocellulose

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