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Genetic Instability of Heterozygous, Hybrid, Natural Wine Yeasts

American Society for Microbiology
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  • Mycology
  • Economics


We describe a genetic instability found in natural wine yeasts but not in the common laboratory strains of Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Spontaneous cyh2R/cyh2R mutants resistant to high levels of cycloheximide can be directly isolated from cyh2S/cyh2S wine yeasts. Heterozygous cyh2R/cyh2S hybrid clones vary in genetic instability as measured by loss of heterozygosity at cyh2. There were two main classes of hybrids. The lawn hybrids have high genetic instability and generally become cyh2R/cyh2R homozygotes and lose the killer phenotype under nonselective conditions. The papilla hybrids have a much lower rate of loss of heterozygosity and maintain the killer phenotype. The genetic instability in lawn hybrids is 3 to 5 orders of magnitude greater than the highest loss-of-heterozygosity rates previously reported. Molecular mechanisms such as DNA repair by break-induced replication might account for the asymmetrical loss of heterozygosity. This loss-of-heterozygosity phenomenon could be economically important if it causes sudden phenotype changes in industrial or pathogenic yeasts and of more basic importance to the degree that it influences the evolution of naturally occurring yeast populations.

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