The pentose phosphate pathway (PPP) is a route that can work in parallel to glycolysis in glucose degradation in most living cells. It has a unidirectional oxidative part with glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase as a key enzyme generating NADPH, and a non-oxidative part involving the reversible transketolase and transaldolase reactions, which interchange PPP metabolites with glycolysis. While the oxidative branch is vital to cope with oxidative stress, the non-oxidative branch provides precursors for the synthesis of nucleic, fatty and aromatic amino acids. For glucose catabolism in the baker’s yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae
, where its components were first discovered and extensively studied, the PPP plays only a minor role. In contrast, PPP and glycolysis contribute almost equally to glucose degradation in other yeasts. We here summarize the data available for the PPP enzymes focusing on S. cerevisiae
and Kluyveromyces lactis
, and describe the phenotypes of gene deletions and the benefits of their overproduction and modification. Reference to other yeasts and to the importance of the PPP in their biotechnological and medical applications is briefly being included. We propose future studies on the PPP in K. lactis
to be of special interest for basic science and as a host for the expression of human disease genes.
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