BackgroundLignocellulosic material is a suitable renewable carbon and energy source for microbial cell factories, such as Yarrowia lipolytica. To be accessible for microorganisms, the constituent sugars need to be released in a hydrolysis step, which as a side effect leads to the formation of various inhibitory compounds. However, the effects of these inhibitory compounds on the growth of Y. lipolytica have not been thoroughly investigated.ResultsHere we show the individual and combined effect of six inhibitors from three major inhibitor groups on the growth of Y. lipolytica. We engineered a xylose consuming strain by overexpressing the three native genes XR, XDH, and XK and found that the inhibitor tolerance of Y. lipolytica is similar in glucose and in xylose. Aromatic compounds could be tolerated at high concentrations, while furfural linearly increased the lag phase of the cultivation, and hydroxymethylfurfural only inhibited growth partially. The furfural induced increase in lag phase can be overcome by an increased volume of inoculum. Formic acid only affected growth at concentrations above 25 mM. In a synthetic hydrolysate, formic acid, furfural, and coniferyl aldehyde were identified as the major growth inhibitors.ConclusionWe showed the individual and combined effect of inhibitors found in hydrolysate on the growth of Y. lipolytica. Our study improves understanding of the growth limiting inhibitors found in hydrolysate and enables a more targeted engineering approach to increase the inhibitor tolerance of Y. lipolytica. This will help to improve the usage of Y. lipolytica as a sustainable microbial cell factory.