New method for producing Yeast hybrids may inspire new brews, biofuels: Wisconsin researchers

In Wisconsin, researchers have developed a new method for making interspecies yeast hybrids in the lab, making hybrids at rates of one in a thousand cells. The research team related its results in a special synthetic biology issue of the journal Fungal Genetics and Biology. “It is much more efficient than nature.”

The new yeast hybridization method uses plasmids, circles of DNA that can be built into an organism to confer a genetic quality. In the lab, plasmids are routinely used to manipulate genes in cells. Genes in the plasmids facilitate yeast hybridization by expressing a naturally occurring yeast protein that allows two distinct species of yeasts to mate. The plasmids used to facilitate the process of hybridization can be removed from the new hybrid yeasts, leaving the genomes of the two fused organisms unchanged.

“The advantages of the technique are speed, efficiency, and precision,” says the research team, as they described four new hybrids, one of which was made using a strain of Saccharomyces eubayanus discovered near Sheboygan, Wisconsin. The new hybrid is being tested in a new beer recipe in the UW-Madison Department of Food Science.

The new technique may also help industry overcome a creative bottleneck, as many industrial strains of yeasts are sterile, unable to produce spores.

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