Ethanol-induced water stress in yeast

John E. Hallsworth*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

123 Citations (Scopus)


This review considers the effect of ethanol-induced water stress on yeast metabolism and integrity. Ethanol causes water stress by lowering water activity (a(w)) and thereby interferes with hydrogen bonding within and between hydrated cell components, ultimately disrupting enzyme and membrane strut and function. The impact of ethanol on the energetic status of water is considered in relation to cell metabolism. Even moderate ethanol concentrations (5 to 10%, w/v) cause a sufficient reduction of a(w) to have metabolic consequences. When exposed to ethanol, cells synthesize compatible solutes such as glycerol and trehalose that protect against water stress and hydrogen-bond disruption. Ethanol affects the control of gene expression by the mechanism that is normally associated with (so-called) osmotic control. Furthermore, ethanol-induced water stress has ecological implications.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)125-137
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Fermentation and Bioengineering
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 01 Jan 1998


  • Compatible solutes
  • Ethanol toxicity
  • Gene expression
  • Glycerol
  • Microbial ecology
  • Osmotic stress
  • Trehalose
  • Water activity
  • Yeast

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology


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