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Cheers to Ale and Lager Producing Yeasts


The trainees of the NSF-funded IGERT Program in Comparative Genomics at the University of Arizona have sequenced the whole genome of an ale-producing Saccharomyces cerevisiae strain from Belgium and used comparative genomic analyses to identify areas that are critical to fermentation. A comparison between a hybrid larger-producing yeast and one of its parents, an ale-producing yeast, provides insight into the genomic changes that occurred during domestication. The yeast used to brew beer has been domesticated for thousands of years and has been artificially selected for various traits such as fermentation temperature. The yeast used to brew ales ferments quickly at higher temperatures while the yeast used to brew lagers ferments slowly and at lower temperatures. By analyzing the genomes, the trainees were able to look for genes that underlie this difference in fermentation. Using the whole genome sequence data, they were also able to explore the evolutionary history of domesticated yeasts. After comparing the various yeasts used to produce ale, lager, wine and sake, the trainees found that the yeasts are structured by geographic origins and not by use.

This project was developed in the IGERT Program’s required course, “Problems in Genomics.” Without an interdisciplinary training program like the IGERT Program, it is unlikely that students from various departments (Plant Sciences, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and Neuroscience) would have collaborated on a project resulting in a publication. Additionally, the genomic tools they learned enabled them to analyze and answer novel questions such as these. However, their work has not been effortless; they overcame many obstacles. Not only did they have difficulties with reagents and experiments, but another paper was published with three ale genomes prior to submission of their manuscript. Because of this, they had to redo some analyses to include these new data. They are now in the final stages of rewriting the manuscript with the new data and expect to submit the manuscript this summer.

Address Goals

This research addresses our primary goal by advancing knowledge of the genes underlying domestication and bringing us one step closer to understanding the genes responsible for speciation and thus the diversity of life.

This project also addresses our second goal. The trainees acquired many new analytic skills and they also learned how to work in a group of researchers with diverse backgrounds. By interacting with other researchers outside of their discipline, these students are helping to build a broad, interactive, and interdisciplinary scientific community.