New yeast chromosome could be a game changer for industry


Australian scientists have engineered a new yeast chromosome that could be applied to range of industrial applications. 

Scientists from the Australian Wine Research Institute (AWRI), ARC Centre of Excellence in Synthetic Biology, and Macquarie University outlined the breakthrough in yeast genome engineering in a recent issue of Nature Communications. 

“It’s a proof of concept that we can build entire new chromosomes for specific industrial purposes,” AWRI research manager and lead author Dr Anthony Borneman said. 

“Unique genomic sequences from a range of yeast strains – including those used in wine, sake and biofuel production – were assembled into a completely new chromosome in the laboratory strain. This additional genetic material imparted new characteristics, such as allowing the laboratory strain to ferment sugars it normally can’t use, widening the feedstocks available for industrial purposes.” 

Saccharomyces cerevisiae, the yeast strain used in this research, has been used in brewing, distilling, winemaking and baking for thousands of years. More recently, it has been important for producing ethanol for E10 petrol and for a variety of industrial biochemicals. 

“This is a ground-breaking new study that opens up the possibility of designing new chromosomes,” Macquarie University ARC Centre of Excellence in Synthetic Biology centre director and co-author Distinguished Professor Ian Paulsen said. 

“For instance, making yeast producing oils or making it better at producing other industrially useful compounds.” 

This body of work is an extension of a global engineered yeast project, Sc2.0, which is attempting to synthesise the entire genome of the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. The project aims to help researchers understand how a yeast genome is organised and how genomes might be improved to create more robust organisms.  

It also provides a foundation for future specific purposes, such as creating new medications or biofuels. Macquarie University, the ARC Centre of Excellence in Synthetic Biology and the AWRI are partners in the Sc2.0 collaboration. 

The overall goal of this work was to address the lack of genetic variation in the Sc2.0 strain that could limit future industrial application. 

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