Yeasts of the genus Zygosaccharomyces are notable agents of large-scale food spoilage. Despite the economic importance of these organisms, little is known about the stress adaptations whereby they adapt to many of the more severe conditions of food preservation. In this study it was shown that genes of Z. bailii, a yeast notable for its high resistances to food preservatives and ethanol, can be isolated by complementation of the corresponding mutant strains of Saccharomyces cerevisiae. It was also discovered that the acquisition by S. cerevisiae of a single small Z. bailii gene (ZbYME2) was sufficient for the former yeast to acquire the ability to degrade two major food preservatives, benzoic acid and sorbic acid. Using DNA cassettes containing dominant selectable markers and methods originally developed for performing gene deletions in S. cerevisiae, the two copies of ZbYME2 in the Z. bailii genome were sequentially deleted. The resulting Zbyme2/Zbyme2 homozygous deletant strain had lost any ability to utilize benzoate as sole carbon source and was more sensitive to weak acid preservatives during growth on glucose. Thus, ZbYME2, probably the nuclear gene for a mitochondrial mono-oxygenase function, is essential for Z. bailii to degrade food preservatives. This ability to catabolize weak acid preservatives is a significant factor contributing to the preservative resistance of Z. bailii under aerobic conditions. This study is the first to demonstrate that it is possible to delete in Z. bailii genes that are suspected as being important for growth of this organism in preserved foods and beverages. With the construction of further mutant of Z. bailii strains, a clearer picture should emerge of how this yeast adapts to the conditions of food preservation. This information will, in turn, allow the design of new preservation strategies. GenBank Accession Nos: ZbURA3 (AF279259), ZbTIM9 (AF279260), ZbYME2 (AF279261), ZbTRP1 (AF279262), ZbHHT1(AF296170).
Copyright 2000 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.