Fermentative lifestyle in yeasts belonging to the Saccharomyces complex

FEBS J. 2007 Feb;274(4):976-89. doi: 10.1111/j.1742-4658.2007.05645.x. Epub 2007 Jan 18.


The yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae is characterized by its ability to: (a) degrade glucose or fructose to ethanol, even in the presence of oxygen (Crabtree effect); (b) grow in the absence of oxygen; and (c) generate respiratory-deficient mitochondrial mutants, so-called petites. How unique are these properties among yeasts in the Saccharomyces clade, and what is their origin? Recent progress in genome sequencing has elucidated the phylogenetic relationships among yeasts in the Saccharomyces complex, providing a framework for the understanding of the evolutionary history of several modern traits. In this study, we analyzed over 40 yeasts that reflect over 150 million years of evolutionary history for their ability to ferment, grow in the absence of oxygen, and generate petites. A great majority of isolates exhibited good fermentation ability, suggesting that this trait could already be an intrinsic property of the progenitor yeast. We found that lineages that underwent the whole-genome duplication, in general, exhibit a fermentative lifestyle, the Crabtree effect, and the ability to grow without oxygen, and can generate stable petite mutants. Some of the pre-genome duplication lineages also exhibit some of these traits, but a majority of the tested species are petite-negative, and show a reduced Crabtree effect and a reduced ability to grow in the absence of oxygen. It could be that the ability to accumulate ethanol in the presence of oxygen, a gradual independence from oxygen and/or the ability to generate petites were developed later in several lineages. However, these traits have been combined and developed to perfection only in the lineage that underwent the whole-genome duplication and led to the modern Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast.

MeSH terms

  • Aerobiosis
  • Anaerobiosis
  • Antifungal Agents / pharmacology
  • Antimycin A / pharmacology
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / metabolism
  • Ethanol / metabolism
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Fermentation / physiology*
  • Genome, Fungal
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Oxygen Consumption
  • Phylogeny
  • Saccharomyces / classification*
  • Saccharomyces / growth & development
  • Saccharomyces / metabolism*
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / genetics
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / growth & development
  • Time Factors
  • Yeasts / classification
  • Yeasts / genetics
  • Yeasts / metabolism


  • Antifungal Agents
  • DNA, Mitochondrial
  • Ethanol
  • Antimycin A
  • Glucose