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Appl Microbiol Biotechnol. 2010 May;86(5):1195-212. doi: 10.1007/s00253-010-2486-6. Epub 2010 Mar 2.

Genetic improvement of brewer's yeast: current state, perspectives and limits.

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  • 1VIB Lab for Systems Biology & CMPG Lab for Genetics and Genomics, KULeuven/University of Louvain, Bio-Incubator, Gaston Geenslaan 1, B-3001, Leuven, Belgium.


Brewer's yeast strain optimisation may lead to a more efficient beer production process, better final quality or healthier beer. However, brewer's yeast genetic improvement is very challenging, especially true when it comes to lager brewer's yeast (Saccharomyces pastorianus) which contributes to 90% of the total beer market. This yeast is a genetic hybrid and allopolyploid. While early studies applying traditional genetic approaches encountered many problems, the development of rational metabolic engineering strategies successfully introduced many desired properties into brewer's yeast. Recently, the first genome sequence of a lager brewer's strain became available. This has opened the door for applying advanced omics technologies and facilitating inverse metabolic engineering strategies. The latter approach takes advantage of natural diversity and aims at identifying and transferring the crucial genetic information for an interesting phenotype. In this way, strains can be optimised by introducing "natural" mutations. However, even when it comes to self-cloned strains, severe concerns about genetically modified organisms used in the food and beverage industry are still a major hurdle for any commercialisation. Therefore, research efforts will aim at developing new sophisticated screening methods for the isolation of natural mutants with the desired properties which are based on the knowledge of genotype-phenotype linkage.

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