When exponentially growing Saccharomyces cerevisiae was transferred from a normal high water activity growth medium (aw 0.997) to a medium containing 8% NaCl low water activity growth medium (aw 0.955), glycerol accumulation during the first eight hours of the adaptation was both retarded and greatly diminished in magnitude. Investigation of the underlying reasons for the slow onset of glycerol accumulation revealed that not only was overall glycerol production reduced by salt transfer, but also the rates of ethanol production and glucose consumption were reduced. Measurement of glycolytic intermediates revealed an accumulation of glucose-6-phosphate, fructose-6-phosphate, fructose 1,6 bisphosphate and phosphoenolpyruvate in S. cerevisiae 3 to 4 h after transfer to salt, suggesting that one or more glycolytic enzymes were inhibited. Potassium ions accumulated in S. cerevisiae after salt transfer and reached a maximum about 6 h after transfer, whereas the sodium ion content increased progressively during the adaptation period. The trehalose content also increased in adapting cells. It is suggested that inhibition of glycerol production during the initial period of adaptation could be due to either the inhibition of glycerol-3-phosphate dehydrogenase by increased cation content or the inhibitin of glycolysis, glycerol being produced glycolytically in S. cerevisiae. The increased accumulation of glycerol towards the end of the 8-h period suggests that the osmoregulatory response of S. cerevisiae involves complex sets of adjustments in which inhibition of glycerol-3-phosphate dehydrogenase must be relieved before glycerol functions as a major osmoregulator. © 1991 Springer-Verlag.