The industrial yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae is a traditional ethanologenic agent and a promising biocatalyst for advanced biofuels production using lignocellulose materials. Here we present the genomic background of type strain NRRL Y-12632 and its transcriptomic response to 5-hydroxymethyl-2-furaldehyde (HMF), a commonly encountered toxic compound liberated from lignocellulosic-biomass pretreatment, in dissecting the genomic mechanisms of yeast tolerance. Compared with the genome of laboratory model strain S288C, we identified more than 32,000 SNPs in Y-12632 with 23,000 missense and nonsense SNPs. Enriched sequence mutations occurred for genes involved in MAPK- and phosphatidylinositol (PI)- signaling pathways in strain Y-12632, with 41 and 13 genes containing non-synonymous SNPs, respectively. Many of these mutated genes displayed consistent up-regulated signature expressions in response to challenges of 30 mM HMF. Analogous single-gene deletion mutations of these genes showed significantly sensitive growth response on a synthetic medium containing 20 mM HMF. Our results suggest at least three MAPK-signaling pathways, especially for the cell-wall integrity pathway, and PI-signaling pathways to be involved in mediation of yeast tolerance against HMF in industrial yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Higher levels of sequence variations were also observed for genes involved in purine and pyrimidine metabolism pathways.