Assimilation of grape phytosterols bySaccharomyces cerevisiaeand their impact on enological fermentations

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Although yeasts are known to be able to incorporate a wide variety of exogenous sterols under strict anaerobiosis, no data are available on the assimilation of grapevine phytosterols under enological conditions and the eventual impact on fermentation kinetics. We used therefore a mixture of pure phytosterols, in a proportion representative of the different grape skins phytosterols, to supplement a synthetic fermentation medium simulating a grape must. Under anaerobiosis, normal biomass formation was achieved with 5 mg phytosterols l-1. Similar results were obtained in comparison with the observed maximal fermentation rates. These results clearly indicated that grape phytosterols may efficiently act as a substitute for ergosterol in the yeast membrane for promoting yeast growth and initial fermentative activity. Analysis of total yeast sterols indicated that phytosterols are accumulated without further modification, mainly in their esterified form. However, all the fermentations performed with synthetic media supplemented with phytosterols led to stuck fermentations, linked to a correlative strong decrease in cell viability during the stationary phase. Therefore, grape phytosterols are easily incorporated by yeast cells under enological conditions for promoting initial growth and fermentative activity, but rapidly perturb the yeast membrane properties by being the predominant sterols.

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