Cellular Responses and Targets in Food Spoilage Yeasts Exposed to Antifungal Prenylated Isoflavonoids

Sylvia Kalli, Cindy Vallieres, Joseph Violet, Jan Willem Sanders, John Chapman, Jean Paul Vincken, Simon V. Avery, Carla Araya-Cloutier*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Prenylated isoflavonoids are phytochemicals with promising antifungal properties. Recently, it was shown that glabridin and wighteone disrupted the plasma membrane (PM) of the food spoilage yeast Zygosaccharomyces parabailii in distinct ways, which led us to investigate further their modes of action (MoA). Transcriptomic profiling with Z. parabailii showed that genes encoding transmembrane ATPase transporters, including Yor1, and genes homologous to the pleiotropic drug resistance (PDR) subfamily in Saccharomyces cerevisiae were upregulated in response to both compounds. Gene functions involved in fatty acid and lipid metabolism, proteostasis, and DNA replication processes were overrepresented among genes upregulated by glabridin and/or wighteone. Chemogenomic analysis using the genome-wide deletant collection for S. cerevisiae further suggested an important role for PM lipids and PM proteins. Deletants of gene functions involved in biosynthesis of very-long-chain fatty acids (constituents of PM sphingolipids) and ergosterol were hypersensitive to both compounds. Using lipid biosynthesis inhibitors, we corroborated roles for sphingolipids and ergosterol in prenylated isoflavonoid action. The PM ABC transporter Yor1 and Lem3-dependent flippases conferred sensitivity and resistance, respectively, to the compounds, suggesting an important role for PM phospholipid asymmetry in their MoAs. Impaired tryptophan availability, likely linked to perturbation of the PM tryptophan permease Tat2, was evident in response to glabridin. Finally, substantial evidence highlighted a role of the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) in cellular responses to wighteone, including gene functions associated with ER membrane stress or with phospholipid biosynthesis, the primary lipid of the ER membrane. IMPORTANCE Preservatives, such as sorbic acid and benzoic acid, inhibit the growth of undesirable yeast and molds in foods. Unfortunately, preservative tolerance and resistance in food spoilage yeast, such as Zygosaccharomyces parabailii, is a growing challenge in the food industry, which can compromise food safety and increase food waste. Prenylated isoflavonoids are the main defense phytochemicals in the Fabaceae family. Glabridin and wighteone belong to this group of compounds and have shown potent antifungal activity against food spoilage yeasts. The present study demonstrated the mode of action of these compounds against food spoilage yeasts by using advanced molecular tools. Overall, the cellular actions of these two prenylated isoflavonoids share similarities (at the level of the plasma membrane) but also differences. Tryptophan import was specifically affected by glabridin, whereas endoplasmic reticulum membrane stress was specifically induced by wighteone. Understanding the mode of action of these novel antifungal agents is essential for their application in food preservation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e0132723
JournalMicrobiology Spectrum
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 17 Aug 2023


  • antifungal
  • chemogenomics
  • glabridin
  • prenylated isoflavonoids
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae
  • transcriptomics
  • wighteone
  • Zygosaccharomyces parabailii


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