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FEMS Yeast Res. 2003 Apr;3(2):149-57.

The impact of brewing yeast cell age on fermentation performance, attenuation and flocculation.

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School of Biological and Molecular Sciences, Oxford Brookes University, Headington, Oxford OX3 0BP, UK.


Individual cells of the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae exhibit a finite replicative lifespan, which is widely believed to be a function of the number of divisions undertaken. As a consequence of ageing, yeast cells undergo constant modifications in terms of physiology, morphology and gene expression. Such characteristics play an important role in the performance of yeast during alcoholic beverage production, influencing sugar uptake, alcohol and flavour production and also the flocculation properties of the yeast strain. However, although yeast fermentation performance is strongly influenced by the condition of the yeast culture employed, until recently cell age has not been considered to be important to the process. In order to ascertain the effect of replicative cell age on fermentation performance, age synchronised populations of a lager strain were prepared using sedimentation through sucrose gradients. Each age fraction was analysed for the ability to utilise fermentable sugars and the capacity to flocculate. In addition cell wall properties associated with flocculation were determined for cells within each age fraction. Aged cells were observed to ferment more efficiently and at a higher rate than mixed aged or virgin cell cultures. Additionally, the flocculation potential and cell surface hydrophobicity of cells was observed to increase in conjunction with cell age. The mechanism of ageing and senescence in brewing yeast is a complex process, however here we demonstrate the impact of yeast cell ageing on fermentation performance.

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