Exploring and exploiting the natural phenotypic landscape of yeast

Yeast and Fermentation Session
Jan Steensels, CMPG Laboratory for Genetics and Genomics
Co-author(s): Kevin Verstrepen, CMPG Laboratory for Genetics and Genomics, Belgium

ABSTRACT: Although yeast has been used for more than 7,000 years for the fermentation of foods and beverages, the yeasts used are often suboptimal. In terms of biodiversity, industrial yeasts only represent the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Many industrial yeasts are genetically related to each other, and many share similar traits. In many cases, the particular yeast used for a specific industrial application is not the best possible yeast. This is especially true in the beer brewing industry, where brewers often use a particular yeast because of historic rather than scientific reasons. To explore the phenotypic landscape of yeasts and investigate the full potential of Saccharomyces cerevisiae and other species, we examined a collection of over 500 different yeast strains from different origins. These yeasts were subjected to a plethora of industrially relevant, high throughput assays. These experiments focused on tolerance to different stressful environments, sugar assimilation, production of certain enzymes and fermentation efficiency. Secondly, we also measured the production of about 20 of the most important aroma compounds. Together, we have now obtained more than 150 measurements for each yeast strain. This huge dataset provides an excellent tool for selection of yeast strains with very specific properties. In other words, producers can now select the yeast that best suits their needs. Moreover, we have also identified several non-conventional yeasts with a clear potential for industrial applications. Last but not least, our results provide a good basis for further breeding of novel, superior yeasts that are ideally suited for specific applications.

Jan Steensels received a B.S. degree in bioscience engineering from the University of Leuven, Belgium in 2008 and an M.S. degree in bioscience engineering, major in cell and gene technology, minor in industrial microbiology< from the same university in 2010. He did his master thesis in the Centre for Malting and Brewing Science in 2009–2010. In 2010, Jan joined the VIB laboratory for Systems Biology led by Kevin Verstrepen as a Ph.D. student.