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ISME J. 2012 Jul;6(7):1281-90. doi: 10.1038/ismej.2011.195. Epub 2011 Dec 22.

Geographic delineations of yeast communities and populations associated with vines and wines in New Zealand.

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  • 1School of Biological Sciences, University of Auckland, Auckland Mail Centre, Auckland, New Zealand.


Yeasts are a diverse seemingly ubiquitous group of eukaryotic microbes, and many are naturally associated with fruits. Humans have harnessed yeasts since the dawn of civilisation to make wine, and thus it is surprising that we know little of the distribution of yeast communities naturally associated with fruits. Previous reports of yeast community diversity have been descriptive only. Here we present, we believe, the first robust test for the geographic delineation of yeast communities. Humans have relatively recently employed Saccharomyces cerevisiae as a model research organism, and have long harnessed its ancient adaption to ferment even in the presence of oxygen. However, as far as we are aware, there has not been a rigorous test for the presence of regional differences in natural S. cerevisiae populations before. We combined these community- and population-level questions and surveyed replicate vineyards and corresponding spontaneous ferments from different regions on New Zealand's (NZ's) North Island and analysed the resulting data with community ecology and population genetic tests. We show that there are distinct regional delineations of yeast communities, but the picture for S. cerevisiae is more complex: there is evidence for region-specific sub-populations but there are also reasonable levels of gene flow among these regions in NZ. We believe this is the first demonstration of regional delineations of yeast populations and communities worldwide.

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