Independent Mechanisms for Acquired Salt Tolerance versus Growth Resumption Induced by Mild Ethanol Pretreatment in Saccharomyces cerevisiae

mSphere. 2018 Nov 28;3(6):e00574-18. doi: 10.1128/mSphere.00574-18.


All living organisms must recognize and respond to various environmental stresses throughout their lifetime. In natural environments, cells frequently encounter fluctuating concentrations of different stressors that can occur in combination or sequentially. Thus, the ability to anticipate an impending stress is likely ecologically relevant. One possible mechanism for anticipating future stress is acquired stress resistance, where cells preexposed to a mild sublethal dose of stress gain the ability to survive an otherwise lethal dose of stress. We have been leveraging wild strains of Saccharomyces cerevisiae to investigate natural variation in the yeast ethanol stress response and its role in acquired stress resistance. Here, we report that a wild vineyard isolate possesses ethanol-induced cross protection against severe concentrations of salt. Because this phenotype correlates with ethanol-dependent induction of the ENA genes, which encode sodium efflux pumps already associated with salt resistance, we hypothesized that variation in ENA expression was responsible for differences in acquired salt tolerance across strains. Surprisingly, we found that the ENA genes were completely dispensable for ethanol-induced survival of high salt concentrations in the wild vineyard strain. Instead, the ENA genes were necessary for the ability to resume growth on high concentrations of salt following a mild ethanol pretreatment. Surprisingly, this growth acclimation phenotype was also shared by the lab yeast strain despite lack of ENA induction under this condition. This study underscores that cross protection can affect both viability and growth through distinct mechanisms, both of which likely confer fitness effects that are ecologically relevant.IMPORTANCE Microbes in nature frequently experience "boom or bust" cycles of environmental stress. Thus, microbes that can anticipate the onset of stress would have an advantage. One way that microbes anticipate future stress is through acquired stress resistance, where cells exposed to a mild dose of one stress gain the ability to survive an otherwise lethal dose of a subsequent stress. In the budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, certain stressors can cross protect against high salt concentrations, though the mechanisms governing this acquired stress resistance are not well understood. In this study, we took advantage of wild yeast strains to understand the mechanism underlying ethanol-induced cross protection against high salt concentrations. We found that mild ethanol stress allows cells to resume growth on high salt, which involves a novel role for a well-studied salt transporter. Overall, this discovery highlights how leveraging natural variation can provide new insights into well-studied stress defense mechanisms.

Keywords: Saccharomyces cerevisiae; cross protection; osmotic stress; stress adaptation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Anti-Infective Agents, Local / toxicity*
  • Ethanol / toxicity*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Fungal
  • Microbial Viability / drug effects
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / drug effects*
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / growth & development*
  • Salt Tolerance*
  • Stress, Physiological*


  • Anti-Infective Agents, Local
  • Ethanol