Background: Saccharomyces cerevisiae is the micro-organism of choice for the conversion of fermentable sugars during beverage or bioethanol fermentations. These fermentations are characterised by high osmotic stress on a yeast cell, with selected brewing fermentations beginning at 20-25% fermentable sugars and bioethanol fermentations at 13% fermentable sugars.
Results: RCK2 encodes for a MAPKAP (MAPK-activated protein kinase) enzyme and was identified on a locus by QTL analysis in yeast cells under osmotic stress, RCK2 expression was placed under a tetracycline regulatable vector and rescued glucose, sorbitol or glycerol induced osmotic stress in an rck2 null strain. A strain overexpressing RCK2 had significantly faster fermentation rates when compared with the empty vector control strain.
Conclusions: Presence of RCK2 increased rates of glucose utilisation (~40 g glucose in first 8 h) during a 15% glucose fermentation and concurrent production of ethanol when compared with empty vector controls. Tolerance to osmotic stress using the tetracycline regulatable vectors could be turned off with the addition of tetracycline returning a rck2 null strain back to osmotic sensitivity.