Industrial yeasts, economically important microorganisms, are widely used in diverse biotechnological processes including brewing, winemaking and distilling. In contrast to a well-established genome of brewer's and wine yeast strains, the comprehensive evaluation of genomic features of distillery strains is lacking. In the present study, twenty two distillery yeast strains were subjected to electrophoretic karyotyping and array-based comparative genomic hybridization (array-CGH). The strains analyzed were assigned to the Saccharomyces sensu stricto complex and grouped into four species categories: S. bayanus, S. paradoxus, S. cerevisiae and S. kudriavzevii. The genomic diversity was mainly revealed within subtelomeric regions and the losses and/or gains of fragments of chromosomes I, III, VI and IX were the most frequently observed. Statistically significant differences in the gene copy number were documented in six functional gene categories: 1) telomere maintenance via recombination, DNA helicase activity or DNA binding, 2) maltose metabolism process, glucose transmembrane transporter activity; 3) asparagine catabolism, cellular response to nitrogen starvation, localized in cell wall-bounded periplasmic space, 4) siderophore transport, 5) response to copper ion, cadmium ion binding and 6) L-iditol 2- dehydrogenase activity. The losses of YRF1 genes (Y' element ATP-dependent helicase) were accompanied by decreased level of Y' sequences and an increase in DNA double and single strand breaks, and oxidative DNA damage in the S. paradoxus group compared to the S. bayanus group. We postulate that naturally occurring diversity in the YRF1 gene copy number may promote genetic stability in the S. bayanus group of distillery yeast strains.
Keywords: Chromosome Section; array-CGH; chromosomes; distillery yeasts; genetic instability; genome.