Bucky yeast joins list of new yeast discoveries

Christopher Todd Hittinger, Assistant Professor
Department of Genetics
UW-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences

Chris Hittinger talks about a new yeast named Bucky and the importance of yeast around the world.

3:01 – Total Time

0:14 – A yeast named Bucky discovered
0:39 – Bucky yeast has curious properties
0:58 – New yeasts discovered in Wisconsin
1:26 – Lager yeast discovered in Sheboygan
2:07 – Biofuels, beer, wine, cider
2:21 – How new yeast are discovered
2:53 – Lead out

Sevie Kenyon: A new yeast named Bucky, we’re speaking today with Chris Hittinger, Department of Genetics University of Wisconsin Madison in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, and I’m Sevie Kenyon. Chris, what is the Bucky Yeast?

Chris Hittinger: The yeast that we discovered and named for Bucky Badger is actually formally named Blastobotrys buckinghamii, and it came from an undisturbed, uncut forest in the upper peninsula of Michigan. It’s a tough yeast and when you grow it on plates you can see it aggressively growing along the agar just like Bucky charging down the field

Sevie Kenyon: And Chris what else makes this particular yeast interesting?

Chris Hittinger: One thing that is interesting is that other members of the genus are actually able to detoxify a toxin that is made by the Fusarium wheat rust (blight). We’ve already received word from some colleagues that are interested in testing it and we hope that it will have some promise there.

Sevie Kenyon: Chris you’re out looking around the whole world for yeast, what are some of your most recent finds?

Chris Hittinger: Well so one thing that we discovered a few months ago was actually the first strains of Saccharomyces eubayanus from outside of South America. Our collaborators in South America just discovered this species. The missing link in the origin of lager brewing yeast, which turned out to be an interspecies hybrid between typical sale yeasts and this other species, and we’ve now discovered it in Wisconsin

Sevie Kenyon: Where in Wisconsin did you find it

Chris Hittinger: So it actually came from Sheboygan, Wisconsin. In South America we know that Saccharomyces eubayanus is very closely associated with southern beech trees. So my undergraduate student, lacking Nothofagus or southern beech trees here in Wisconsin wondered if they might be associated with American beech trees. And it turns out that their western most edge of their range is right by the edge of Lake Michigan. And so she was talking to her family, her aunt remembered that Indian Mountain Park in Sheboygan actually had beech trees. And sure enough she went there and sampled and those became the first isolated of Saccharomyces eubayanus outside of South America.

Sevie Kenyon: Chris give us an idea why yeast are so important to you and to the world

Chris Hittinger: Yeasts are important because they are the major producer of biofuels. They are incredibly important to the baking industry and the fermentation industry so they make beer, wine, champagne, cider.

Sevie Kenyon: Chris how do you look for yeast?

Chris Hittinger: Well the way we look for yeast is to grab soil or bark from as undisturbed of an environment as we can and we bring them back into the lab give them lots of sugar and other nutrients. And then we put them out onto typical petri plates and look at the yeast colonies that form and at that stage you can actually see that there’s a lot of diversity and morphology and color. And then we sequence its DNA to definitively tell whether it is different from something we already have or whether it’s a new isolate, a new individual.

Sevie Kenyon: We’ve been visiting with Chris Hittinger Department of Genetics University of Wisconsin Madison in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, and I’m Sevie Kenyon.

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