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The main research topics of our group:

Study of Saccharomyces yeasts of biotechnological interest and

 Industrial yeasts responsible for biotechnological processes are highly specialized organisms that have evolved under restrictive conditions in different environments manipulated by man. Our group is interested in understanding the mechanisms involved in adaptation that have shaped the yeast genome conferring properties of biotechnological interest. Different Omic as well as evolutionary analysis are used to understand the mechanisms of adaptation of yeasts of industrial interest to environmental and nutritional changes. This research is applicable to the selection and breeding of new strains of yeasts of interest in industrial fermentations (wine, beer, cider, etc.) by different techniques such as adaptive evolution, hybridization, or the development of GMOs.

Actual projects:

1) Global analysis of the interactions among species and within hybrid genomes from Saccharomyces yeasts of interest in Enology

(Grant AGL2012-39937-C02-01 Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness , Spanish Government)

In the XXI century, the wine industry must respond to the challenges posed both by new consumer demands and by changes in the composition and properties of the grape must due to climate change. These demands have a significant impact on the quality and acceptance of the final product, wines. Answers to these new demands require improvements in the enological practices, among which the development of new yeast starters adapted to the fermentation conditions imposed by climate change are of chief importance.

In previous projects, we focused on the study of the physiological characteristics of enological interest exhibited by Saccharomyces species and their hybrids, in order to develop new strains that could respond to the current demands of the wine industry. These objectives were achieved by introducing new strains of Saccharomyces species different than S. cerevisiae, possessing new properties of interest, as well as by developing artificial hybrids combining the properties of their parental species.
The reduction of ethanol and the increase of glycerol production during wine fermentation, both byproducts of the respiro-fermentative metabolism of yeasts, are among their most important contributions to meet the new demands of the wine industry. Our previous studies confirmed that these other Saccharomyces species produce less ethanol and more glycerol than S. cerevisiae due to differences in both expression regulation and the catalytic properties of the involved enzymes. One of the objectives of the present project is to integrate the global analysis of the regulation of the respiro-fermentative metabolism to understand the modulation of the production of ethanol and glycerol under different fermentation conditions.

The use of starters of non-conventional species of the genus Saccharomyces in winemaking industry also promotes the need to study their behavior during competition with the natural microbiota present in the must. In this project we will also study the interactions between Saccharomyces yeasts by analyzing global changes in both gene expression and metabolome occurred during competition under different fermentation conditions.

Finally, the development of new artificial hybrid strains requires a better understanding of the interactions that occur in the hybrid genome between genes coming from different parents that are important for the stabilization and imposition of these hybrids. Hybrids contain two interacting, “adaptively different”, genomes. Therefore, hybridization involves the fusion between the metabolic capabilities of the two parental species, which may be followed by substantial readjustments in the gene expression regulation and in the interactions of the two proteomes.

The availability of artificial hybrids, in addition to their biotechnological interest, offers new challenges to study how two genomes, two transcriptomes, two proteomes and two metabolomes interact to merge into the a single system in the hybrid, and what are the evolutionary consequences of this fusion to generate functional innovations necessary for the adaptation and imposition of these hybrids in wine fermentation environments.


2) Molecular analysis of the adaptation of Saccharomyces yeasts for fermentation processes

(Grant PROMETEO/2009/019 from Generalitat Valenciana, Spain).

Industrial yeasts responsible for biotechnological processes are very specialized agencies that have evolved under stringent environmental conditions in different environments manipulated by man. Our group is interested in understanding the mechanisms involved in adaptation that have shaped the genome of yeast conferring properties of biotechnological interest. Other "omics" approaches and evolutionary analysis to understand the mechanisms of adaptation to environmental and nutritional changes (sugars, temperature, availability of nitrogen and iron, etc.) of yeast used industrial interest. In recent years the wine industry is demanding yeasts to reduce the alcohol content, to increase the glycerol in red wines glycerol, to increase the aroma, yeast that consuming properly the fructose and that fermenting well at low temperatures and with high sugar concentration.  In the previous project we focus on knowing the molecular basis of differential adaptation presented by different yeasts to these new demands of the sector. We study the optimal conditions for growth of various species of Saccharomyces yeasts, adapted to grow in different environments such as the use of different sources of carbon, extreme temperatures growth, production and ethanol tolerance. Moreover we study the genetic basis of adaptive explaining differences between different species of the genus and between strains of the same species by applying new technologies like global analysis, genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics and bioinformatic analysis. These studies allowed us to better understand the molecular mechanisms of adaptation to low temperatures, the synthesis of glycerol and sugar transport mechanisms in which we want to deepen in this project.

 
3) Study of the genetic and physiological properties of yeasts responsible of Brazilian industrial fermentations by the application of OMIC techniques, to improve their biotechnological properties.

(Grant BR-300992/2014-9 “Special program of International Cooperation from CNPq, Government of Brazil Special Guest Researcher in collaboration with  “Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais – UFMG”, Belo Horizonte Brasil.

The genus Saccharomyces encompasses the industrially most exploited species known to man used worldwide to produce different fermented foods and beverages, including some typical Brazilian beverages like cachaça and wine, and is also responsible for one of the most relevant biotechnological applications in Brazil of economic interest, like sugar cane fermentation to produce bioethanol. In general, alcohol fermentations (must and sugar cane) and are not the best suited medium for the development of Saccharomyces yeasts. These strains were unintentionally selected for their ability to ferment substrates with high sugar contents to become adapted to the fermentation conditions that predominated in each region. Throughout their evolution, yeasts have undergone diverse selective processes to become adapted to the fermentation conditions. These events have led to the unintentional ‘domestication’ of the ‘industrial’ yeasts that possess very different physiological and genetic properties from those exhibited by wild yeasts. The main objective is to known the special characteristics of the yeasts responsible of Brazilian industrial fermentations to improve their biotechnological properties. To achieve this goal, we will first study the genomic and physiological differences of the yeasts isolated from cachaça, wine and bioethanol in Brazil in comparison to the yeast isolated from other traditional fermentations from America and from industrial processes from other parts of the world (Europe). According to these data, we will sequence the whole genome of the selected strains and we will perform a transcriptomic and proteomic study at industrial level. It would also be interesting to improve some characteristics of the yeasts involved in the three processes. We will apply non recombinant techniques, such as hybridization, between the strains of S. cerevisiae or those of S. cerevisiae with S. kudriavzevii or S. uvarum to improve the aroma profile in wine and cachaça strains or hybrids between strains of S. cerevisiae or directed evolution to increase the ethanol yield in bioethanol trains. Finally, we will analyze the genetic stability of yeasts during the bioethanol process.

Understand the mechanisms responsible for the virulence of food-related yeasts on humans.

In the last few years, changes in consumer preferences that modify food processes have affected food safety. This, together with there being more immunocompromised individuals in the community, has led to more reports of yeast infections and an increasing number of yeast species has been implicated, including the most frequent food species like S. cerevisiae, D. hansenii, K. lactis and marxianus or P. anomala. We know very little about the mechanisms of infections and the potential characteristics related to the virulence of these species and understand the mechanisms responsible for the virulence is one of the objectives of our laboratory.

 

Our laboratory has always applied its knowledge to the industry by means of contracted R&D to the following topics of interest to the industry:

1. Application of molecular techniques for the identification and characterization of yeast in fermentation processes.

2. Development of starter cultures for their use in alcoholic fermentations.

3.  Breeding yeasts by non-GMO techniques such as directed evolution, intra and inter-specific hybridization as well as genetic engineering. These techniques are being applied for the improvement of industrial yeasts such as the increase of the glycerol production, the decrease of ethanol yield, tolerance to low temperatures, growth in nitrogen-limiting conditions, the production of fermentation aromas and the release of varietal scents.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 







Quick identification of Yeasts
, ( CSIC / UVEG )
 
Departamento de investigación: Biotecnología de Alimentos
Grupo de investigación: Biología de sistemas en levaduras de interés biotecnológico
Amparo M. Querol Simón
Lab.: 307
Telef.: 2306



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