Full Genome Sequencing of Yeast

Written by on April 18, 2014 in The Beer Diaries

Brewers have been using yeast for hundreds of years. These amazing microorganisms have created some of the most popular brews in the world by providing different flavors and aromas that define those beers. However, beer can be improved and become more diverse if we can understand the genetic code and specific mechanisms which produce characteristics in yeast.  If scientists could more easily manipulate the DNA of yeast to maximize desired traits and weed out undesirables, the brewers would then be able to consult the yeast producers to customize their culture. This would open the doors to more varieties and higher quality beer with fewer inconsistencies. During this year’s Craft Brewers Conference, a new breakthrough in yeast research was revealed by Troels Prahl, Head of Research of White Labs.  In his seminar, he discussed the use of full genome sequencing on yeast.

This process is a laboratory procedure that determines the complete DNA sequence of an organism’s genome at a single time.When beginning the seminar, Prahl jokingly mentioned that they could use this research to manipulate yeast to stop after one generation, forcing brewers to purchase a new batch of yeast every time they brew. However, this isn’t a call to arms, White Labs has made it apparent they have no interest in doing that to their customers. That practice would very much be like how some farmers have to buy new seeds from a corporation every time they plant their crops. On the contrary, in the same spirit of Carlsberg’s I. C. Jacobsen’s open forum with Emil Christian Hansen, Prahl announced that White Labs, among others who were essential to the research (Illumina, Independent, K.U. Leuven, Synthetic Genomics, and Yonder Biology), intend to make all the data and results of their full genome sequencing of yeast available to brewers small and large. This will grant the whole brewing community all the science behind their fermentation to analyze.

More than 300 brews representing more than 16 styles and exceeding 2,000 individual fermentations were involved to gather the data for this experiment. All of the beers were fermented at 20 degrees Celsius (68 Fahrenheit) and the yeast strains were either randomly selected or selected to match the style of beer. Fermentation phenotype information will be completed by May 2014, and the complete data sharing will be done on the Archetype platform eventually. In the future, conditional analysis, multivariable experiments, protein analysis, customized primers for rapid identification or contaminant detection will be available.

This is a prime example of what the impact of contemporary research can do to aid in craft beer’s mission to provide a better quality brew. The collaboration and exchange of resources for a greater understanding of this industry, and the science behind it, is something we should all strive for. White Labs is doing a great service to craft beer lovers everywhere.

Saccharomyces cerevisiae

Budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae © Eye Of Science / Science Photo Library




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