Chapter 6: The genomes of lager yeasts

Adv Appl Microbiol. 2009;69:159-82. doi: 10.1016/S0065-2164(09)69006-7.


Yeasts used in the production of lagers belong to the genus Saccharomyces pastorianus. Species within this genus arose from a natural hybridization event between two yeast species that appear to be closely related to Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Saccharomyces bayanus. The resultant hybrids contain complex allopolyploid genomes and retain genetic characteristics of both parental species. Recent genome analysis using both whole genome sequencing and competitive genomic hybridization techniques has revealed the underlying composition of lager yeasts genomes. There appear to be at least 36 unique chromosomes, many of which are lager specific, resulting from recombination events between the homeologous parental chromosomes. The recombination events are limited to a defined set of genetic loci, which are highly conserved within strains of lager yeasts. In addition to the hybrid chromosomes, several non-reciprocal chromosomal translocations and inversions are also observed. Remarkably, in response to exposure to environmental stresses such as high temperatures and high osmotic pressure, the genomes appear to be highly dynamic and undergo recombination events at defined loci and alterations in the telomeric regions. The ability of environmental stress to alter the structure and composition of the genomes of lager yeasts may point to mechanisms of adaptive evolution in these species.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Beer / microbiology
  • Chromosome Inversion
  • Food Microbiology*
  • Genome, Fungal / genetics*
  • Hybridization, Genetic
  • Recombination, Genetic
  • Saccharomyces / classification
  • Saccharomyces / genetics*
  • Saccharomyces / metabolism
  • Sequence Analysis
  • Translocation, Genetic