The Loh Down On Science

Frisky Yeast

Would you drink wine from a vat people had frolicked in?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science, saying, of course not. Ew!

What if yeast had done the frolicking? (And by "frolicking" we mean "had sex.") Um ... ew?

According to new research by Stanford geneticists, that's exactly what happens.

And it might be the reason that glass of red or white wine is so delicious.

Working with the Gallo Winery, Gavin Sherlock and Barbara Dunn did genome analysis on 69 strains of common bakers yeast. That's right, 69.

What did they find? That such "frolicking" is common. Very common. Yeast are ... promiscuous.

The team was hoping to see nice, tidy relationships between the strains, which would
allow them to build nice, tidy evolutionary family trees.

Instead? It was chaos. A complete cluster ... fuffle.

In all but a few strains, they found evidence of widespread mating. Which is odd because yeast
mainly reproduce by budding, where a daughter cell forms from a bit of a parent.

But get a little vino into the critters and it's a par-tay! So to speak.



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