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Annu Rev Food Sci Technol. 2013;4:215-35. doi: 10.1146/annurev-food-030212-182545.

Breeding research on sake yeasts in Japan: history, recent technological advances, and future perspectives.

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Department of Environmental Sciences, Saga University, Saga, Japan.


Sake is an alcoholic beverage of Japan, with a tradition lasting more than 1,300 years; it is produced from rice and water by fermenting with the koji mold Aspergillus oryzae and sake yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Breeding research on sake yeasts was originally developed in Japan by incorporating microbiological and genetic research methodologies adopted in other scientific areas. Since the advent of a genetic paradigm, isolation of yeast mutants has been a dominant approach for the breeding of favorable sake yeasts. These sake yeasts include (a) those that do not form foams (produced by isolating a mutant that does not stick to foams, thus decreasing the cost of sake production); (b) those that do not produce urea, which leads to the formation of ethyl carbamate, a possible carcinogen (isolated by positive selection in a canavanine-, arginine-, and ornithine-containing medium); (c) those that produce an increased amount of ethyl caproate, an apple-like flavor (produced by isolating a mutant resistant to cerulenin, an inhibitor of fatty-acid synthesis); and (d) those that produce a decreased amount of pyruvate (produced by isolating a mutant resistant to an inhibitor of mitochondrial transport, thus decreasing the amount of diacetyl). Given that sake yeasts perform sexual reproduction, sporulation and mating are potent approaches for their breeding. Recently, the genome sequences of sake yeasts have been determined and made publicly accessible. By utilizing this information, the quantitative trait loci (QTLs) for the brewing characteristics of sake yeasts have been identified, which paves a way to DNA marker-assisted selection of the mated strains. Genetic engineering technologies for experimental yeast strains have recently been established by academic groups, and these technologies have also been applied to the breeding of sake yeasts. Sake yeasts whose genomes have been modified with these technologies correspond to genetically modified organisms (GMOs). However, technologies that enable the elimination of extraneous DNA sequences from the genome of sake yeast have been developed. Sake yeasts genetically modified with these technologies are called self-cloning yeasts and do not contain extraneous DNA sequences. These yeasts were exempted from the Japanese government's guidelines for genetically modified food. Protoplast fusion has also been utilized to breed favorable sake yeasts. Future directions for the breeding of sake yeasts are also proposed in this review. The reviewed research provides perspectives for the breeding of brewery yeasts in other fermentation industries.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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