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This new study, “A Gondwanan imprint on global diversity and domestication of wine and cider yeast Saccharomyces uvarum, published in Nature Communications, describes the use of a population genomics approach to perform a comprehensive phylogeographic survey of S. uvarum with special focus on the detection, for the first time, of fingerprints of domestication in this species.


Pedro Almeida and Carla Gonçalves, the first authors of the paper and PhD students in the Yeast Genomics Lab, explained that a vast collection of isolates obtained from fermented beverages and from natural environments in different continents was selected for whole-genome sequence analysis. The phylogenetic analysis revealed that, by far, most of the diversity contained in S. uvarum is found in the Southern Hemisphere, specifically in the Patagonian region. Furthermore, a coalescence analysis in the South American and Holarctic populations suggests that a Patagonian sub-population gave rise to the North American population, and subsequently to the European population.


Remarkably, the scientists found that “Holarctic strains display multiple introgressions from other Saccharomyces species, those from S. eubayanus being prevalent in European strains associated with human-driven fermentations”, presenting, for the first time, evidence of domestication in S. uvarum. According to the researchers, “these introgressions are absent in the large majority of wild strains and gene ontology analyses indicate that several gene categories relevant for wine fermentation are overrepresented”. Studies like this one, aiming at understanding the underpinnings of yeast domestication will provide the knowledge for the improvement of industrial strains.


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