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A turning point in the development of the Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast genome in Australia

The yeast strain Saccharomyces cerevisiae is an industrial powerhouse that has been used for years in baking, winemaking, distilling and brewing. It is also the basis of most essedielle yeasts, thanks to its versatility. 

In a recent issue of the prestigious journal Nature Communications, researchers from the ARC Centre of Excellence in Synthetic Biology, Macquarie University, and the Australian Wine Research Institute (AWRI) described a significant advancement in yeast genome editing. Simply put, researchers have succeeded in developing a new yeast chromosome that is completely unique in nature, producing a yeast that could be used for a numerous variety of industrial purposes.

Lead author and AWRI Research Manager Dr. Anthony Borneman describes the research as “a proof of concept that we can design entirely new chromosomes for specific industrial objectives.”  This brand-new chromosome was created by assembling distinctive genomic sequences from a variety of yeast strains, including those used to produce wine, sake, and biofuels. The laboratory strain was able to ferment sugars that it ordinarily couldn’t use thanks to the inclusion of new genetic material, which increased the variety of industrial feedstocks that were available. “This is an innovative new study that raises the prospect of creating new chromosomes”. Distinguished Professor Ian Paulsen, co-author and director of the Australian Centre of Excellence in Synthetic Biology at Macquarie University, says that one possibility is to improve the ability of yeast to produce certain industrially important molecules, such as oils, or to produce other compounds. This body of work is a continuation of the Sc2.0 global engineered yeast project, which aims to synthesize the whole Saccharomyces cerevisiae genome. The goal of the project is to advance knowledge about the structure of the yeast genome and how to modify genomes to produce stronger organisms. Additionally, it serves as a base for more specialized goals in the future, such developing new medicines or biofuels.

Source: Rawson, S., Walsh, R. M., Velez, B., Schnell, H. M., Jiao, F., Blickling, M., Ang, J., Bhanu, M. K., Huang, L., & Hanna, J. (2022). Yeast PI31 inhibits the proteasome by a direct multisite mechanism. Nature Structural & Molecular Biology, 29(8), 791–800.