The evolutionary origins of the baker’s yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae (2023)


Proof and evolutionary analysis of ancient genome duplication in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Kellis M, Birren BW, Lander ES. Nature. 2004 Apr 8;428(6983):617-24. doi: 10.1038/nature02424.

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Saccharomyces cerevisiae, also known as baker’s yeast or brewer’s yeast, is the most meticulously researched eukaryotic model organism, and has had its entire genome completely sequenced since 1996. S. cerevisiae is vitally important in many biotechnological and biopharmaceutical pursuits; however, it is most notably employed in the production of hormones, vaccines, and the research and treatment of HPV. But where did this amazing yeast come from? The answer lies in a phenomenon known as whole genome duplication. Gene duplication is a powerful mechanism of evolution, for duplicate genes can amass normally deleterious mutations and gain new, innovative function. In S. cerevisiae, there exists ancestral duplication blocks indicative of a whole genome duplication event, wherein S. cerevisiae arose from duplication of eight ancestral chromosomes and deletion of ~90% of its duplicate genome. To prove the existence of this event, Kellis and colleagues compared S. cerevisiae’s genome to a similar yeast that diverged before the duplication – Kluyveromyces waltii – and quantified regions of doubly conserved synteny (DCS blocks) that define clustered regions mapped 1:2 with S. cerevisiae. Analysis of 253 DCS blocks, tiling 85% of each of K. waltii’s eight chromosomes, revealed that 90% of genes from both S. cerevisiae regions had matches within the single corresponding K. waltii region in a pattern consistent with whole genome duplication after massive gene loss. From these blocks, 145 sister S. cerevisiae regions were also identified, spanning 88% of the genome, and containing 457 duplicated gene pairs. From these pairs, we can observe functional change that occurred across S. cerevisiae’s evolution. Kellis and colleagues demonstrated that our modern yeast evolved from a whole genome duplication event that doubled its chromosome number and returned to normal function through subsequent gene loss. Analysis of whole genome duplication provides the opportunity to study the long-term fate of a genome after duplication, therefore it is important that we search for its signatures in other organisms, including ourselves, so that we may better understand its role in early evolution, and where we are headed as a species.

Creator: Megan Belousoff

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This is Saccharomyces cerevisiae.

Don’t, let the name fool you.

This isn’t a novel organism.

Rather it is the ever-common fungus, baker’s, yeast! Belonging to the family, Saccharomycetaceae, or budding yeasts, S.

cerevisiae is the most meticulously researched.

Eukaryotic model organism and, through the efforts of an international consortium of scientists, has had its entire genome completely sequenced.

Since 1996.

At, the time.

It was the first, and largest complete genome sequence of any eukaryote.

Coming in at a massive 12,068 kilobases, or over 12 million base pairs packaged into 16 chromosomes.


We employ S.

cerevisiae in a wide variety of biotechnological and biopharmaceutical pursuits, due to it being easy to use, able to produce heterologous proteins, and amenable to genetic manipulation.

It is used in beverage, fermentation, bread-making, and bioethanol production and, most notably.

It is used in the production of hormones like insulin, vaccines, and virus-like nanoparticles for the research, and treatment of human papillomavirus, (HPV).


Where did S.

cerevisiae come from? How has the yeast, which has become so vitally important in the agricultural and biomedical fields.

Come into evolution? The answer lies in a phenomenon known as whole: genome duplication., Gene duplication is a powerful mechanism driving evolution.

By duplicating genes.

A redundant locus copy is created, and is effectively ignored by natural selection, allowing it to accumulate mutations that are considered ‘forbidden’, and be reborn with innovative function.

The consequence of this, however, is polyploidy, or possessing more than two complete sets of chromosomes, which induces genetic instability that persists until mutation, gene loss, or genomic rearrangement returns, the genome to normal.

In, the S.

cerevisiae genome, analysis reveals the existence of ancestral duplication blocks – large, paired chromosomal regions, comprised of chronological paralogues with unique interspersed genes.

This is consistent with a model of whole genome duplication, which suggests that S.

cerevisiae is a degenerate tetraploid which arose from duplication of eight ancestral, chromosomes and returned to normal function through small deletions of approximately 90% of its duplicated genome., This hypothesis is challenged by an alternative model, which suggests that these duplicated segments arose from numerous local gene, duplication and deletion.

Events, however.

This theory has since been disproven., Scientists, Kellis, Birren and Lander deduced that the best way to prove the existence of an ancestral whole genome duplication event in S.

cerevisiae would be to find a similar yeast.

(Let’s call “Y”) that descended from a common ancestor in the same lineage, but which had diverged before the duplication.


This yeast would hence be related to S.

cerevisiae by a 1:2 chromosomal mapping.

To confirm this.

Three criteria had to be satisfied: (1).

Almost all regions in “Y” correspond to two sister regions in S., cerevisiae, (2), the two sister regions contain chronological genes in the corresponding “Y” regions, and (3).

Almost all regions in S.

cerevisiae correspond to one “Y” region, and thus pair to a sister S.

cerevisiae region.

Kluyveromyces waltii, a close relative that diverged before the duplication, was chosen as a model for comparison.

Multicellular genomes are large, and hence are difficult to assemble into a single, readable, sequence., Whole-genome, shotgun sequencing solves this by randomly breaking DNA into small fragments, with overlapping sequence.

Reads: reassembled by computer into contigs, and ultimately, entire chromosomes.

This technique was used to collate K.

waltii sequence, information into eight chromosomes, totalling 10.7 Mb, for analysis.

First, Kellis and colleagues compared both species’ genomes to identify orthologous genes and syntenic regions – blocks containing matching, chronological genes across both species.

This was quantified by an algorithm, which divided K.

waltii into doubly conserved, synteny, or DCS blocks, which define clustered regions, mapped 1:2 with S.


This duplicate mapping was used to define sister regions in S.

cerevisiae and identified 253 DCS blocks, tiling 85% of each of K.

waltii’s, eight chromosomes.

Within, a typical block, 90% of genes from both S.

cerevisiae regions, were found to have matches within the single corresponding K.

waltii region and were interleaved in preserved gene order and orientation, consistent with patterns of whole genome duplication.

After massive gene loss.

Furthermore, these blocks were used to define 145 sister regions in S.

cerevisiae that preserved ancestral gene order, spanning 88% of the genome, and containing 457 duplicated gene pairs.

From these paralogues.

We can also observe patterns of functional change during S.

cerevisiae’s evolution, such as accelerated evolution of new, derived functions from old ones, decelerated evolution of genes that retained ancestral, function, and unusual codon.


Kellis and colleague’s findings prove the occurrence of an ancestral whole genome duplication event in the Saccharomyces lineage, doubling its number of chromosomes, and returning it to normal ploidy through subsequent gene loss.


Whilst, the window of opportunity for exploration by gene duplicates is narrow, stochastic.

Gene evolution plays a fundamental role in the passive origin of new species, such as the S.


We see, today.

Analysis of whole genome duplication, provides the opportunity to study the long-term fate of a genome after duplication, and shed light on its consequences.

Both positive and negative.

It is important that we search for signatures of such an event in other organisms, including ourselves as humans, so that we may better understand its role in early evolution, and where we are headed as a species.


What is the origin of Saccharomyces cerevisiae? ›

cerevisiae, originated in China before moving west 16–14 tya via the route which would become the Silk Road (Wang et al., 2012; Duan et al., 2018; Peter et al., 2018; Fay et al., 2019).

How is Baker's yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae produced? ›

The baker's yeast is commercially produced on a nutrient source which is rich in sugar (usually molasses: by product of the sugar refining). The fermentation is conducted in large tanks. Once the yeast fills the tank, it is harvested by centrifugation, giving an off-white liquid known as cream yeast.

Where does bakers yeast come from? ›

Baker's yeast, domesticated from wild strains, is derived from a combination of the yeast strains used to make European grape wine and the strains used to make Asian rice wine.

Why Saccharomyces cerevisiae is commonly known as Baker's yeast? ›

Saccharomyces cerevisiae is also known as baker's yeast and the most common yeast species in bread and in sourdoughs. It has been used as a starter culture since the 19 th century , where Baker's yeasts were obtained from the leftovers of the beer manufacture.

When was Saccharomyces cerevisiae first discovered? ›

A long, long time ago, in early 6th millennium B.C., yeast was involved in the fermentation of grapes to make wine. Yeast later played a role in baking bread in ancient Egypt. It was not until 1856 that Luis Pasteur identified S. cerevisiae as the key wine-making and bread-baking microbe.

When did Saccharomyces cerevisiae evolve? ›

The earliest known records of yeast risen bread come from Ancient Egypt in 1300–1500 BCE (Samuel, 1996; Sicard and Legras, 2011) and China in 500–300 BC (Shevchenko et al., 2014).

What are the factors important in bakers yeast production? ›

Temperature: Yeast is most active at 104–122°F (40–50°C) and is inactivated at 140°F (60°C). Water content or dough hydration. Osmotic pressure: Salt and sugar increase osmotic pressure, which in turn slows down yeast activity. Time: Yeast needs sufficient time to ferment carbon sources.

Where do we get Saccharomyces cerevisiae? ›

cerevisiae is found, as expected, in fruits and insects, but also in humans as a commensal (Angebault et al. 2013) or pathogen (Muller et al. 2011), in soil, on various plants (Wang et al. 2012) and on oak trees (Sniegowski, Dombrowski and Fingerman 2002; Sampaio and Gonçalves 2008).

How is Saccharomyces cerevisiae made? ›

Saccharomyces cerevisiae is a species of yeast with a long tradition in human history and a growing demand in industry and research. The yeast cells are produced in a series of fed batch reactors which are fed with oxygen and glucose as the main carbon source.

Where is Baker's yeast found? ›

Active dry yeast, along with instant, can typically be found in the grocery store baking aisle, next to other dry ingredients like flour and baking powder.

Does Baker's yeast have DNA? ›

Indeed, most or all commercial baker's yeasts are poliploid or aneuploid strains with approximately 3n-4n DNA content [19, 20].

How did ancient people get yeast? ›

The Romans sometimes used a leaven made of grape juice and millet to hasten the fermentation of their breads. The juice contained yeast from the skins of the grapes.

What is special about Saccharomyces cerevisiae? ›

S. cerevisiae has been an essential component of human civilization because of its extensive use in food and beverage fermentation in which it has a high commercial significance. In the European yeast industry, a 1 million tonnes is produced annually, and around 30% of which is exported globally.

Is Saccharomyces cerevisiae called Baker's yeast? ›

One of the most notable and well-known species of yeast in health and wellness is known as Saccharomyces cerevisiae, which is also known by its more common names, brewer's yeast or baker's yeast.

What is the difference between yeast and Saccharomyces cerevisiae? ›

The key difference between Saccharomyces Cerevisiae and Candida Albicans is that Saccharomyces cerevisiae is not a commensal yeast or a non-pathogenic fungus, while Candida albicans is a commensal yeast that is a pathogenic fungus. S. cerevisiae is one of the most studied eukaryotic model organisms.

Does yeast have evolution? ›

“The average modern yeast can grow on about 20 substrates. Their ancestor, BYCA, could grow on 30. So that means, over the course of 400 million years of evolution, the typical species of budding yeast lost about a third of the metabolic capacity on what they were able to consume.

What is Saccharomyces cerevisiae primary source? ›

Saccharomyces cerevisiae (/ˌsɛrəˈvɪsi. iː/) (brewer's yeast or baker's yeast) is a species of yeast (single-celled fungus microorganisms). The species has been instrumental in winemaking, baking, and brewing since ancient times. It is believed to have been originally isolated from the skin of grapes.

How does Saccharomyces cerevisiae grow and develop? ›

cerevisiae can grow aerobically and anaerobically. Its ability to use different sugars depends on which way it grows. If it grows aerobically, galactose and fructose are the best fermenting sugars. All strains require nitrogen and phosphorus sources to grow.

What is the genetics of Saccharomyces cerevisiae? ›

Genome Facts

The genome of the haploid laboratory-bred reference strain (S288c), S. cerevisiae, comprises 16 linear chromosomes, varying from ∼200 to ∼2000 kb. The total genome size includes 12.07 Mb of chromosomal DNA, 85 kb of mitochondrial DNA, and 6.3 kb episomal plasmids (2μ).

What is the history of yeast in science? ›

In 1680, Dutch naturalist Anton van Leeuwenhoek first microscopically observed yeast, but at the time did not consider them to be living organisms, but rather globular structures as researchers were doubtful whether yeasts were algae or fungi. Theodor Schwann recognized them as fungi in 1837.

What is the economic importance of Saccharomyces cerevisiae? ›

Saccharomyces cerevisiae has great economic importance in the baking industry (fluffiness of the breads and pastries due to the formation of carbon dioxide during fermentation), the alcohol industry (fermentation by yeast leads to the formation of ethyl alcohol) and in the production of biofuels. Q.

What is the principle of bakers yeast? ›

The principle use of Baker's yeast is as an essential bakery ingredient- for causing fermentation in the dough used in making bakery items. This process helps making soft and fluffy bakery items like variety of breads, bread rolls, pizza base, cracker biscuits, sweet breads and burger buns etc.

How does bakers yeast grow? ›

Though each yeast organism is made up of just one cell, yeast cells live together in multicellular colonies. They reproduce through a process called budding, in which a “mother cell” grows a protrusion known as a “bud” that gets bigger and bigger until it's the same size as the mom.

What are the raw materials for Baker's yeast? ›

The principal raw materials used in producing baker's yeast are the pure yeast culture and molasses. The yeast strain used in producing compressed yeast is Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Other yeast strains are required to produce each of the 2 dry yeast products, ADY and IDY.

How do humans use Saccharomyces cerevisiae? ›

The budding yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, has been used to make bread and beer for thousands of years.

Is Saccharomyces cerevisiae A virus? ›

Saccharomyces cerevisiae virus L-A, also called L-A helper virus, is a member of the Totiviridae family of viruses found primarily in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Its discovery in the 1970s was the main starting point of research on yeast virology.

How is Saccharomyces cerevisiae activated? ›

The Saccharomyces cerevisiae HSP12 gene is activated by the high-osmolarity glycerol pathway and negatively regulated by protein kinase A.

What kills Baker's yeast? ›

Too Hot to Survive. Regardless of the type of yeast you use, if your water reaches temperatures of 120°F or more, the yeast will begin to die off. Once water temps reach 140°F or higher, that is the point where the yeast will be completely killed off.

What are the three types of Baker's yeast? ›

There are three main types of commercially produced baker's yeast: active dry, instant, and fresh.

Is Baker's yeast a living thing? ›

They probably got there thanks to tiny living organisms called yeast. Even though these organisms are too small to see with the naked eye (each granule is a clump of single-celled yeasts), they are indeed alive just like plants, animals, insects and humans.

Is Baker's yeast an enzyme? ›

The two principal enzymes present in yeast are maltase and invertase. In addition, there are several other minor enzymes in yeast, each of which contributes in some way to the total changes brought about by yeast activity in the dough.

How many genes does Baker's yeast have? ›

Yeast have approximately 6,000 genes in all. About a third of these genes are related to human genes; they have survived with relatively little alteration over the one billion years of evolution that separate humans and yeast, suggesting that they carry out important basic functions in cellular life.

When was yeast first identified as a living organism? ›

It was not until the invention of the microscope, followed by the pioneering scientific work of Louis Pasteur in the late 1860's, that yeast was identified as a living organism and the agent responsible for alcoholic fermentation and dough leavening.

How is yeast found naturally? ›

Where does yeast live? Yeast is particularly plentiful in sugary mediums such as fruits and flower nectar. Yeasts from the skins of fruits and berries have been shown to be most prominent during fruit decay. Early humans without even knowing what yeasts were, used rotten fruits to make fermented beverages and alcohol.

Did Egyptians have yeast? ›

The yeast microbes had been asleep for more than 5,000 years, buried deep in the pores of Egyptian ceramics, by the time Seamus Blackley came along and used them to bake a loaf of bread.

What kills Saccharomyces cerevisiae? ›

After the S. cerevisiae was added to the test tube containing the agent, it was streaked on a plate after 5 and 10 minutes. The plates were incubated and then checked for growth. Ethanol was the most efficient killing agent.

Can you eat Saccharomyces cerevisiae? ›

Brewer's yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) is used in beer brewing. It is sometimes used as a food additive and is also available as a dietary supplement.

What are the two types of Baker's yeast? ›

There are 2 Main Types of Baker's Yeast
  • Wet Yeast – Also known as Cake Yeast, Fresh Yeast, or Compressed Yeast.
  • Dry Yeast – Sold as Active Dry and Instant Yeast.
Mar 27, 2019

How is Saccharomyces cerevisiae harmful to humans? ›

However, severe opportunistic infections due to S. cerevisiae have been reported in patients with chronic disease, cancer, and immunosuppression. Fungemia, endocarditis, pneumonia, peritonitis, urinary tract infections, skin infections, and esophagitis have been described.

Why is Saccharomyces important? ›

Saccharomyces have an excellent capacity for ethanol production, and they are suitable yeasts for large-scale fermentation [5]. These important yeasts can be used for the food industry to produce several foods such as bread, beer, wine, distilled spirits, and industrial alcohols.

Who should not take Saccharomyces cerevisiae? ›

People with a weakened immune system or who have central venous catheters should not use S. boulardii due to the risk of fungal infection in the blood. It would help if you talked with your healthcare provider before taking S. boulardii to ensure it is safe.

Is Saccharomyces cerevisiae used in medicine? ›

SACCHAROMYCES CEREVISIAE P contains Saccharomyces cerevisiae, a probiotic (live micro-organisms that keeps the body healthy) used in the treatment of diarrhoea. SACCHAROMYCES CEREVISIAE P helps to restore good bacteria in the intestines.

Who discovered Saccharomyces cerevisiae? ›

Humans have exploited the budding yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, for over ten thousand years for brewing and baking. This close connection with human activity led Louis Pasteur to discover its essential role in alcoholic fermentation in 1857 (Pasteur, 1858).

How is Saccharomyces cerevisiae grown? ›

cerevisiae can grow aerobically and anaerobically. Its ability to use different sugars depends on which way it grows. If it grows aerobically, galactose and fructose are the best fermenting sugars. All strains require nitrogen and phosphorus sources to grow.

What is the form of Saccharomyces cerevisiae? ›

Saccharomyces cerevisiae can exist in two different forms: haploid or diploid. It is usually found in the diploid form. (11). The diploid form is ellipsoid-shaped with a diameter of 5-6um, while the haploid form is more spherical with a diameter of 4um.

What are the natural sources of Saccharomyces? ›

Saccharomyces cerevisiae var. boulardii (S. boulardii) has been isolated from lychee (Litchi chinensis), mangosteen fruit, kombucha, and dairy products like kefir.

What does Saccharomyces cerevisiae do for humans? ›

These microorganisms are able to produce anti-carcinogenic, antioxidant and anti-mutagenic agents and induce protection against different bacterial diseases including diarrhea and respiratory tract infections. Saccharomyces cerevisiae var. boulardii is the most significant probiotic yeast species.

What is the history of yeast genetics? ›

Yeast genetics began with Winge's 1935 studies of S. cerevisiae in Copenhagen, and afterwards was pursued by Lindegren in the U.S. and Ephrussi in France. Genetic studies in S. pombe were pioneered by Leupold in the 1940s in Switzerland.

What are the factors of Saccharomyces cerevisiae? ›

The factors that affect the enzyme activity are: the temperature, the pH, the substrate concentration. The effect of temperature, pH and substrate concentration upon the enzyme activity which affects the growth of S. cerevisiae yeast cells are studied in this research.

How is Saccharomyces cerevisiae used in genetics? ›

S. cerevisiae can be manipulated genetically allowing for both the addition of new genes or deletion through a plethora of homologous recombination techniques. Saccharomyces cerevisiae was the first eukaryotic genome to be completely sequenced.

Is Saccharomyces cerevisiae DNA or RNA? ›

Here, we found that Saccharomyces cerevisiae have all 12 types of RNA–DNA sequence differences (RDDs) in the mRNA. We showed these sequence differences are propagated to proteins, as we identified peptides encoded by the RNA sequences in addition to those by the DNA sequences at RDD sites.

Is Saccharomyces cerevisiae a living thing? ›

Even though these organisms are too small to see with the naked eye (each granule is a clump of single-celled yeasts), they are indeed alive just like plants, animals, insects and humans.

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