Differential Gene Expression and Allele Frequency Changes Favour Adaptation of a Heterogeneous Yeast Population to Nitrogen-Limited Fermentations

Eduardo I. Kessi-Pérez, Belén Ponce, Jing Li, Jennifer Molinet, Camila Baeza, David Figueroa, Camila Bastías, Marco Gaete, Gianni Liti, Alvaro Díaz-Barrera, Francisco Salinas, Claudio Martínez

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Alcoholic fermentation is fundamentally an adaptation process, in which the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae outperforms its competitors and takes over the fermentation process itself. Although wine yeast strains appear to be adapted to the stressful conditions of alcoholic fermentation, nitrogen limitations in grape must cause stuck or slow fermentations, generating significant economic losses for the wine industry. One way to discover the genetic bases that promote yeast adaptation to nitrogen-deficient environments are selection experiments, where a yeast population undergoes selection under conditions of nitrogen restriction for a number of generations, to then identify by sequencing the molecular characteristics that promote this adaptation. In this work, we carried out selection experiments in bioreactors imitating wine fermentation under nitrogen-limited fermentation conditions (SM60), using the heterogeneous SGRP-4X yeast population, to then sequence the transcriptome and the genome of the population at different time points of the selection process. The transcriptomic results showed an overexpression of genes from the NA strain (North American/YPS128), a wild, non-domesticated isolate. In addition, genome sequencing and allele frequency results allowed several QTLs to be mapped for adaptation to nitrogen-limited fermentation. Finally, we validated the ECM38 allele of NA strain as responsible for higher growth efficiency under nitrogen-limited conditions. Taken together, our results revealed a complex pattern of molecular signatures favouring adaptation of the yeast population to nitrogen-limited fermentations, including differential gene expression, allele frequency changes and loss of the mitochondrial genome. Finally, the results suggest that wild alleles from a non-domesticated isolate (NA) may have a relevant role in the adaptation to the assayed fermentation conditions, with the consequent potential of these alleles for the genetic improvement of wine yeast strains.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1204
JournalFrontiers in Microbiology
StatePublished - 15 Jun 2020


  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae
  • fermentation process
  • heterogeneous yeast population
  • nitrogen consumption
  • selection experiments


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