Nitrogen catabolite repression modulates the production of aromatic thiols characteristic of Sauvignon Blanc at the level of precursor transport


  • Editor: Isak Pretorius

Correspondence: Jean-Michel Salmon, UMR INRA, ‘Sciences Pour l'Oenologie’, bât 28, 2 Place Viala, 34060 Montpellier Cedex 1, France. Tel.: +33 499 61 25 05; fax: +33 499 61 28 57; e-mail:


The free thiols 3-mercapto-hexanol (3MH) and its acetate, practically absent from musts, are liberated by yeast during fermentation from a cysteinylated precursor [S-3-(hexan-1-ol)-l-cysteine (Cys-3MH)] present in the grape must and contribute favorably to the flavor of Sauvignon white wines. Production of 3MH is increased when urea is substituted for diammonium phosphate (DAP) as the sole nitrogen source on a synthetic medium. On grape must, complementation with DAP induces a decrease of 3MH production. This observation is reminiscent of nitrogen catabolite repression (NCR). The production of 3MH is significantly lower for a gap1Δ mutant compared with the wild type, during fermentation of a synthetic medium containing Cys-3MH as the precursor and urea as the sole nitrogen source. Mutants isolated from an enological strain with a relief of NCR on GAP1 produce significantly higher amounts of 3MH on synthetic medium than the parental strain. These phenotypes were not confirmed on grape must. It is concluded that on synthetic medium, Cys-3MH enters the cell through at least one identified transporter, GAP1p, whose activity is limiting the release of volatile thiols. On grape must, the uptake of the precursor through GAP1p is not confirmed, but the effect of addition of DAP, eventually prolonging NCR, is shown to decrease thiol production.