Brazil played a pioneering role in the global establishment of the sugarcane bioethanol industry. The bioethanol fermentation process currently used in Brazil is unique due to the acid wash and recycling of yeast cells. Two, industrially adopted, wild yeast strains, CAT-1 and PE-2, have become the most widely used in Brazil. How these strains respond to the unique fermentation process is poorly understood. The improved performance of CAT-1 and PE-2 is hypothesised to be related to enhanced stress tolerance. This study presents a genome-wide analysis of the CAT-1 and PE-2 transcriptomes during a small-scale fermentation process that mimicked the industrial conditions. The common and unique transcriptional responses of the two strains to the Brazilian fermentation process were identified. Environmental stress response genes were up-regulated postfermenter feeding, demonstrating the impact of the prior acid wash and high glucose environment. Cell wall and oxidative stress tolerance were subsequently demonstrated to be enhanced for the industrial strains. Conversely, numerous genes involved in protein synthesis were down-regulated at the end of fermentation revealing the later impact of ethanol-induced stress. Subsequently, the industrial strains demonstrated a greater tolerance of ethanol and the disruption of endoplasmic reticulum homoeostasis. This increased ethanol tolerance was finally correlated with an increased unfolded protein response and increased HAC1 splicing.
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