Six yeast species hybrids combine useful traits, potential powerful applications in bioenergy

May 10, 2020 |

In Wisconsin, researchers at the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center at the University of Wisconsin–Madison developed a method to combine traits from up to six different yeast species in a single hybrid strain — a yeast that could carry more tools for a specific job, such as producing biofuels.

The idea is to combine as many genomes as possible to maximize the amount of genetic starting material in which to look for promising characteristics. Then the researchers can expose the resulting gene-rich hybrids to various conditions in the laboratory to identify strains that express a desired trait, such as the ability to grow at cold temperatures or to digest plant sugars.

With their new method, called iterative hybrid production (iHyPr), the team successfully produced hybrid yeasts from six different Saccharomyces species. The multi-species hybrids adapt quickly to their environments, making them well suited to laboratory-based evolutionary selection.

Two-species hybrids are widely used in agriculture, food and beverage production and other industries. For example, lager beer is produced by a two-species hybrid yeast. A handful of three- and four-species hybrids are known in the beverage industry, Hittinger says, but it isn’t clear how they developed.

Researchers see many potential research and industrial uses for such hybrids, including studies in genetics, cancer biology, brewing and bioenergy.

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Category: Research

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