The osmotolerant and halotolerant food yeast Zygosaccharomyces rouxii is known for its ability to grow and survive in the face of stress caused by high concentrations of non-ionic (sugars and polyols) and ionic (mainly Na(+) cations) solutes. This ability determines the success of fermentation on high osmolarity food matrices and leads to spoilage of high sugar and high salt foods. The knowledge about the genes, the metabolic pathways, and the regulatory circuits shaping the Z. rouxii sugar and salt-tolerance, is a prerequisite to develop effective strategies for fermentation control, optimization of food starter culture, and prevention of food spoilage. This review summarizes recent insights on the mechanisms used by Z. rouxii and other osmo and halotolerant food yeasts to endure salts and sugars stresses. Using the information gathered from S. cerevisiae as guide, we highlight how these non-conventional yeasts integrate general and osmoticum-specific adaptive responses under sugar and salts stresses, including regulation of Na(+) and K(+)-fluxes across the plasma membrane, modulation of cell wall properties, compatible osmolyte production and accumulation, and stress signalling pathways. We suggest how an integrated and system-based knowledge on these mechanisms may impact food and biotechnological industries, by improving the yeast spoilage control in food, enhancing the yeast-based bioprocess yields, and engineering the osmotolerance in other organisms.
Keywords: Cation homeostasis; Glycerol accumulation and retention; Halotolerance; Osmotolerance; Spoilage yeast; Zygosaccharomyces rouxii.
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