Malo-ethanolic fermentation in Saccharomyces and Schizosaccharomyces
Yeast species are divided into the K(+) or K(-) groups, based on their ability or inability to metabolise tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle intermediates as sole carbon or energy source. The K(-) group of yeasts includes strains of Saccharomyces, Schizosaccharomyces pombe and Zygosaccharomyces bailii, which is capable of utilising TCA cycle intermediates only in the presence of glucose or other assimilable carbon sources. Although grouped together, these yeasts have significant differences in their abilities to degrade malic acid. Typically, strains of Saccharomyces are regarded as inefficient metabolisers of extracellular malic acid, whereas strains of Sch. pombe and Z. bailii can effectively degrade high concentrations of malic acid. The ability of a yeast strain to degrade extracellular malic acid is dependent on both the efficient transport of the dicarboxylic acid and the efficacy of the intracellular malic enzyme. The malic enzyme converts malic acid into pyruvic acid, which is further metabolised to ethanol and carbon dioxide under fermentative conditions via the so-called malo-ethanolic (ME) pathway. This review focuses on the enzymes involved in the ME pathway in Sch. pombe and Saccharomyces species, with specific emphasis on the malate transporter and the intracellular malic enzyme.