Abstract The effects of yeast elicitor on the cell growth and secondary metabolism of a high-tanshinone-producing line (cell line B) of the Agrobacterium tumefaciens C58 transformed Salvia miltiorrhiza cells were investigated in suspension culture. Application of yeast elicitor resulted in an overall increase (up to ca. 100%) in cryptotanshinone production whereas the constituent level of rosmarinic acid was reduced (from 2.6% of dry weight to zero at 1.0-ml elicitor dosage). Yeast elicitation also led to a decrease in primary metabolism as indicated by a reduction in biomass accumulation. Differential strategies were suggested for the improvement of productivity of rosmarinic acid and cryptotanshinone in plant cell cultures.