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Knowing yeast genome produces better wine


Dl, 04/06/2012 - 11:55

Knowing yeast genome produces better wine


  • Researchers have discovered that the yeast Dekkera bruxellensis plays an important role in the production of wine. 
  • Mapping this yeast provides a useful tool for wine producers worldwide to control flavour development.
  • CRG researchers Toni Gabaldón and Marina Marcet-Houben were the only Spanish researchers to be involved in this project. 

The yeast Dekkera bruxellensis plays an important role in the production of wine, as it can have either a positive or negative impact on taste. Researchers at Lund University in Sweden in collaboration with researchers at Centre for Genomic Regulation in Barcelona, among others, have analysed the yeast’s genome, sequenced by the US Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute, giving wine producers the possibility of controlling the development of flavour in the wine.
Yeasts are an important ingredient in the production of various types of food, including wine, and they make a major contribution to the taste. One of these yeasts is Dekkera bruxellensis. It is responsible for the aromatic fingerprint in around half of red wines. Yet the yeast can cause huge financial losses for the wine industry – Dekkera bruxellensis can produce a phenolic flavour that is usually described as medicinal. In high concentrations this makes the wine undrinkable.
Despite the fact that Dekkera bruxellensis plays a significant role in the wine production process, relatively little research has been carried out on this yeast. However, in an international collaboration, researchers have now decoded the genome of Dekkera bruxellensis. The researchers have mainly studied the yeast’s genetic background and the properties which are relevant to food production.
“We now know a lot about how Dekkera bruxellensis acts in the aroma formation process during wine production. Wine producers can use this knowledge to their advantage”, says Professor Jure Piskur of the Department of Biology at Lund University.
In recent years, the wine industry has become increasingly interested in the properties of yeasts because they influence the character of the wine. Mapping the Dekkera bruxellensis genome provides a tool with which wine producers worldwide can control flavour development.
“At the end of the day this could lead to more new and interesting wine tastes and greater financial savings for the wine industry”, says Jure Piskur.
Toni Gabaldón, head of the Comparative Genomics Laboratory at the CRG and one of the Spanish researchers involved in this project, explains: “A surprising result was that Dekkera is evolutionarily very close to a group of yeasts that are poor ethanol producers and not adapted to live in fermentative environments. This shows that Dekkera and the typical wine-yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae have independently adapted to the same environment, a process known as convergent evolution. Tracing these evolutionary pathways will help us better understand what the key molecular bases of ethanol-producing yeasts are.”
The research results were recently published in the International Journal of Food Microbiology.

Reference work: Piskur J, Zhihao L, Marcet-Houben M, Ishchuk OP, Aerts A, LaButti K, Copeland A, Lindquist E, Barry K, Compagno C, Bisson L, Grigoriev IV, Gabaldón T, and Phister T. “The genome of wine yeast Dekkera bruxellensis provides a tool to explore its food-related properties” International Journal of Food Microbiology (2012)
For further information, please contact:
Press office - Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG) 
Laia Cendrós, Press officer
Tel. +34 93 316 02 37.