The research goals of YEASTCELL were to develop the biology and technology of industrial yeasts to improve the capacity for exploitation for commercial biotechnology in Europe.
Four of the projects in YEASTCELL focused on improving the performance of wine and brewing yeast and analysing the pathways of flavour production. ESRs working in this area have examined the metabolic basis of yeast aroma properties and stress responses under wine-production conditions and have shed new light on lag-phase modulation and yeast stress resistance during the inoculation phase. The other projects have delivered new understanding of the utilisation of the sugar maltotriose by S. pastorianus and its parental strains S. cerevisiae and S. eubayanus. This is of interest for brewing as maltotriose is slowly or poorly assimilated by many lager yeast strains. In addition, new brewing strains with improved performance have been developed using non-GM methods.
Understanding metabolism and physiology in the industrial yeasts K. marxianus, and Z. bailii was also a key focus. YEASTCELL has developed knowledge of properties such as sugar transport and acid-tolerance that are very useful for industrial production. The Yeast Genome Annotation Pipeline (YGAP) was used to carry out genome analysis and annotations of both K. marxianus, and Z. bailii using. Genome sequencing was also used to identify a key evolutionary event in the history of the strain Z. parabailii. Important work was also done on developing genome engineering technology for non-conventional yeasts.
The remaining projects were tasked with reprogramming yeast metabolic pathways for sustainable production of functional biomolecules, commodity chemicals and medicines. In one project fatty acid metabolism in yeast was re-engineered to produce wax esters, molecules commonly used in cosmetics, personal care products, and other commercial applications. They are typically derived from petro-chemicals but developing an alternative source has become a priority. Another project has resulted in engineered yeast strains that produce aromatic molecules such as cinnamaldehyde. These aroma compounds have applications in agriculture and medical sciences but current production methods are limited by scalability, production time and environmental impact. IP has already been filed in relation to one of the projects and prototype strains for commercial exploitation are expected.