Genome renewal: a new phenomenon revealed from a genetic study of 43 strains of Saccharomyces cerevisiae derived from natural fermentation of grape musts

Yeast. 1994 Dec;10(12):1543-52. doi: 10.1002/yea.320101203.


We have analyzed by genetic means 43 strains of Saccharomyces that had been isolated from fermenting grape musts in Italy. Twenty eight of these strains were isolated from 28 cellars in the Region of Emilia Romagna. The other 15 strains came from 5 fermentations at four cellars near the city of Arpino, which is located south and east of Rome. We found that 20 of the 28 strains from Emilia Romagna were heterozygous at from one to seven loci. The balance were, within the limits of our detection, completely homozygous. All these strains appeared to be diploid and most were homozygous for the homothallism gene (HO/HO). Spore viability varied greatly between the different strains and showed an inverse relation with the degree of heterozygosity. Several of the strains, and in particular those from Arpino, yielded asci that came from genetically different cells. These different cells could be interpreted to have arisen from a heterozygote that had sporulated and, because of the HO gene, yielded homozygous diploid spore clones. We propose that natural wine yeast strains can undergo such changes and thereby change a multiple heterozygote into completely homozygous diploids, some of which may replace the original heterozygous diploid. We call this process 'genome renewal'.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Fermentation
  • Fruit
  • Genome, Viral*
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / genetics*