Membrane Stress Caused by Octanoic acid in Saccharomyces cerevisiae

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Liu, Ping
Chernyshova, Andriy
Najdi, Tarek
Fu, Yao
Dickerson, Julie
Sandmeyer, Suzanne
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Jarboe, Laura
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Chemical and Biological Engineering

The function of the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering has been to prepare students for the study and application of chemistry in industry. This focus has included preparation for employment in various industries as well as the development, design, and operation of equipment and processes within industry.Through the CBE Department, Iowa State University is nationally recognized for its initiatives in bioinformatics, biomaterials, bioproducts, metabolic/tissue engineering, multiphase computational fluid dynamics, advanced polymeric materials and nanostructured materials.

The Department of Chemical Engineering was founded in 1913 under the Department of Physics and Illuminating Engineering. From 1915 to 1931 it was jointly administered by the Divisions of Industrial Science and Engineering, and from 1931 onward it has been under the Division/College of Engineering. In 1928 it merged with Mining Engineering, and from 1973–1979 it merged with Nuclear Engineering. It became Chemical and Biological Engineering in 2005.

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1913 - present

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  • Department of Chemical Engineering (1913–1928)
  • Department of Chemical and Mining Engineering (1928–1957)
  • Department of Chemical Engineering (1957–1973, 1979–2005)
    • Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering (2005–present)

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In order to compete with petroleum-based fuel and chemicals, engineering a robust biocatalyst that can convert renewable feedstocks into biorenewable chemicals, such as carboxylic acids, is increasingly important. However, product toxicity is often problematic. In this study, the toxicity of the carboxylic acids hexanoic, octanoic, and decanoic acid on Saccharomyces cerevisiae was investigated, with a focus on octanoic acid. These compounds are completely inhibitory at concentrations of magnitude 1 mM, and the toxicity increases as chain length increases and as media pH decreases. Transciptome analysis, reconstruction of gene regulatory network, and network component analysis suggested decreased membrane integrity during challenge with octanoic acid. This was confirmed by quantification of dose-dependent and chain length-dependent induction of membrane leakage, though membrane fluidity was not affected. This induction of membrane leakage could be significantly decreased by a period of pre-adaptation, and this preadaptation was accompanied by increased oleic acid content in the membrane, significantly increased production of saturated lipids relative to unsaturated lipids, and a significant increase in the average lipid chain length in the membrane. However, during adaptation cell surface hydrophobicity was not altered. The supplementation of oleic acid to the medium not only elevated the tolerance of yeast cells to octanoic acid but also attenuated the membrane leakiness. However, while attempts to mimic the oleic acid supplementation effects through expression of the Trichoplusia ni acyl-CoA Δ9 desaturase OLE1(TniNPVE desaturase) were able to increase the oleic acid content, the magnitude of the increase was not sufficient to reproduce the supplementation effect and increase octanoic acid tolerance. Similarly, introduction of cyclopropanated fatty acids through expression of the Escherichia coli cfa gene was not helpful for tolerance. Thus, we have provided quantitative evidence that carboxylic acids damage the yeast membrane and that manipulation of the lipid content of the membrane can increase tolerance, and possibly production, of these valuable products.


This is a manuscript of an article from Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology 97 (2013): 3239, doi:10.1007/s00253-013-4773-5. Posted with permission. The final publication is available at Springer via

Tue Jan 01 00:00:00 UTC 2013