Metabolic pathways play an indispensable role in supplying cellular systems with energy and molecular building blocks for growth, maintenance and repair and are tightly linked with lifespan and systems stability of cells. For optimal growth and survival cells rapidly adopt to environmental changes. Accumulation of acetic acid in stationary phase budding yeast cultures is considered to be a primary mechanism of chronological aging and induction of apoptosis in yeast, which has prompted us to investigate the dependence of acetic acid toxicity on extracellular conditions in a systematic manner. Using an automated computer controlled assay system, we investigated and model the dynamic interconnection of biomass yield- and growth rate-dependence on extracellular glucose concentration, pH conditions and acetic acid concentration. Our results show that toxic concentrations of acetic acid inhibit glucose consumption and reduce ethanol production. In absence of carbohydrates uptake, cells initiate synthesis of storage carbohydrates, trehalose and glycogen, and upregulate gluconeogenesis. Accumulation of trehalose and glycogen, and induction of gluconeogenesis depends on mitochondrial activity, investigated by depletion of the Hap2-3-4-5 complex. Analyzing the activity of glycolytic enzymes, glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase (GAPDH), pyruvate kinase (PYK), and glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PDH) we found that while high acetic acid concentration increased their activity, lower acetic acids concentrations significantly inhibited these enzymes. With this study we determined growth and functional adjustment of metabolism to acetic acid accumulation in a complex range of extracellular conditions. Our results show that substantial acidification of the intracellular environment, resulting from accumulation of dissociated acetic acid in the cytosol, is required for acetic acid toxicity, which creates a state of energy deficiency and nutrient starvation.
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