Growth-limiting intracellular metabolites in yeast growing under diverse nutrient limitations


Microbes tailor their growth rate to nutrient availability. Here, we measured, using liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry, textgreater100 intracellular metabolites in steady-state cultures of Saccharomyces cerevisiae growing at five different rates and in each of five different limiting nutrients. In contrast to gene transcripts, where approximately 25% correlated with growth rate irrespective of the nature of the limiting nutrient, metabolite concentrations were highly sensitive to the limiting nutrient’s identity. Nitrogen (ammonium) and carbon (glucose) limitation were characterized by low intracellular amino acid and high nucleotide levels, whereas phosphorus (phosphate) limitation resulted in the converse. Low adenylate energy charge was found selectively in phosphorus limitation, suggesting the energy charge may actually measure phosphorus availability. Particularly strong concentration responses occurred in metabolites closely linked to the limiting nutrient, e.g., glutamine in nitrogen limitation, ATP in phosphorus limitation, and pyruvate in carbon limitation. A simple but physically realistic model involving the availability of these metabolites was adequate to account for cellular growth rate. The complete data can be accessed at the interactive website

Molecular Biology of the Cell