(September 24, 2015) Duplicate copies of genes safeguard survival of the biotech yeast Pichia pastoris in environments where only methanol is present as feed. A recently elucidated metabolism is similar to that used by plants for the utilization of carbon dioxide.
Yeast is being used by mankind for longer time than any other microorganism. Bread, beer, wine – all of these could not be produced without Saccharomyces cerevisiae (baker’s yeast) and other yeast species. Over the last decades yeast has become indispensable for industrial biotechnology as a reliable cell factory. Valuable products ranging from enzymes to active pharmaceutical ingredients are industrially produced using yeast, mostly by a species called Pichia pastoris that is particularly productive.
Because of its long and varied use, yeast is one of the best studied organisms. Besides its industrial application Pichia pastoris is also used by scientists as a model organism for studying cell structures. Everything seemed familiar – until this year. Researchers of the Austrian Centre of Industrial Biotechnology (acib) and the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna (BOKU) have elucidated a new pathway that makes the yeast Pichia pastoris unique. “We were able to show that the assumptions and models that have been used in the last 30 years are not right”, explains Prof. Diethard Mattanovich (BOKU and head of the research area “Systems Biology & Microbial Cell Engineering” at acib).