Life in the absence of molecular oxygen requires several adaptations. Traditionally, the switch from respiratory metabolism to fermentation has attracted much attention in Saccharomyces cerevisiae, as this is the basis for the use of this yeast in the production of alcohol and in baking. It has also been clear that under anaerobic conditions the yeast is not able to synthesize sterols and unsaturated fatty acids and that for anaerobic growth these have to be added to the media. More recently it has been found that many more factors play a role. Several other biosynthetic reactions also require molecular oxygen and the yeast must have alternatives for these. In addition, the composition of the cell wall and cell membrane show major differences when aerobic and anaerobic cells are compared. All these changes are reflected by the observation that the transcription of more than 500 genes changes significantly between aerobically and anaerobically growing cultures. In this review we will give an overview of the factors that play a role in the survival in the absence of molecular oxygen. Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.