Biol 1440, Principles of Biology I

Principles of Cellular Processes
Aerobic Respiration

Yeast Biology

Budding yeasts are true fungi of the phylum Ascomycetes, class Hemiascomycetes. The true yeasts are separated one main order Saccharomycetales, which includes at least ten families.

yeastcells_ascus.jpg (21377 bytes)

Yeasts are heterotrophic, lack chlorophyll, and are characterized by a wide dispersion of natural habitats. Common on plant leaves and flowers, yeasts are also found on the skin surfaces and in the intestinal tracts of warm-blooded animals, where they may live symbiotically or as parasites. In women, who are pregnant or taking antibiotics, an infection of the vagina and vulva caused by a yeastlike fungus Candida albicans, is common. Yeasts are also found in soil and saltwater, where they contribute to the decomposition of plant and algal matter.

Yeasts multiply as single cells that divide by budding or direct division (fission), or they may grow as simple irregular filaments (mycelium). In sexual reproduction most yeasts form asci, which contain up to eight haploid ascospores. These ascospores may fuse with adjoining nuclei and multiply through vegetative division or, as with certain yeasts, fuse with other ascospores.

budyeast.jpg (7314 bytes) Bread Yeast with Bud Scars, Sacchromyces cerevisiae (SEM 25,300)
from Dennis Kunkel, U. Hawaii (

The awsome power of yeast genetics is partially due to the ability to quickly map a phenotype producing gene to a region of the S. cerevisiae genome. For the past two decades S. cerevisiae has been the model system for much of molecular genetic research because the basic cellular mechanics of replication, recombination, cell division and metabolism are generally conserved between yeast and larger eukaryotes, including mammals.

The most well-known and commercially significant yeasts are the related species and strains of Saccharomyces cerevisiae. These organisms have long been utilized to ferment the sugars of rice, wheat, barley, and corn to produce alcoholic beverages and in the baking industry to expand, or raise, dough. Saccharomyces cerevisiae is commonly used as baker's yeast and for some types of fermentation. Yeast is often taken as a vitamin supplement because it is 50 percent protein and is a rich source of B vitamins, niacin, and folic acid.

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