The high osmolarity glycerol (HOG) signaling pathway is crucial for yeast to cope with high osmolarity. Here, we showed that Saccharomyces cerevisiae rice wine isolates exhibited higher tolerance to osmotic stress, which was associated with the evolution of HOG pathway genes. Phylogenetic analysis of HOG genes revealed that Chinese rice wine strains were closely related to sake strains, indicating a common origin of rice wine strains. The DNA sequence diversity analysis showed that higher levels of polymorphism tended to accumulate on the osmosensor genes (MSB2 and SLN1), suggesting that most changes in a signaling transduction pathway were concentrated in the receptors. Moreover, the rapid evolution of osmosensors (Sln1/Msb2) and transcription factor (Msn4) might experience positive selection. Our results imply that the evolution of HOG pathway genes in S. cerevisiae rice wine strains is associated with their adaptation to high osmotic environments.
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