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Crop Biotech Update

Beer Yeast Genomes Reveal Domestication History

October 12, 2016

A team of researchers from the United States and Belgium has traced the history of domestication of yeasts used in beer, wine, bread, and saké. By sequencing the genomes of 157 modern strains of brewer's yeast, the research revealed how humans transformed the wild fungus Saccharomyces cerevisiae into a variety of strains over hundreds of years.

The researchers discovered five yeast sublineages that have undergone selection for certain traits largely corresponding to their industrial use. All the industrial yeasts showed signs of human influence, but the beer yeast genomes were the most dramatically altered. Beer-making strains carry variations and duplications in genes involved in consuming maltose and maltotriose, the main sugars in beer.

The newly available genomes may also change beer-making. Geneticist Kevin Verstrepen at the University of Leuven is breeding different yeast strains and selecting hybrids with a desired set of gene variants. His lab previously brewed beer using genetically modified yeast.

For more details, read the news article at Nature.com.