Designer Yeasts for the Fermentation Industry of the 21st Century

Isak S. Pretorius*, Maret du Toit and Pierre van Rensburg

Institute for Wine Biotechnology, Department of Viticulture and Oenology, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch 7600, South Africa

Article history:

Received: October 25, 2002
Accepted: January 24, 2003

Key words:

Saccharomyces cerevisiae, tailor-made yeast strains, fermented beverages, biofuel industry


The budding yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, has enjoyed a long and distinguished history in the fermention industry. Owing to its efficiency in producing alcohol, S. cerevisiae is, without doubt, the most important commercial microorganism with GRAS (Generally Regarded As Safe) status. By brewing beer and sparkling wine, mankind’s oldest domesticated organism made possible the world’s first biotechnological processes. With the emergence of modern molecular genetics, S. cerevisiae has again been harnessed to shift the frontiers of mankind’s newest revolution, genetic engineering. S. cerevisiae is at the forefront of many of these developments in modern biotechnology. Consequently, the industrial importance of S. cerevisiae has extended beyond traditional fermentation. Today, the products of yeast biotechnologies impinge on many commercially important sectors, including food, beverages, biofuels, chemicals, industrial enzymes, pharmaceuticals, agriculture and the environment. Nevertheless, since ethyl alcohol produced by yeast fermentation is likely to remain the foremost worldwide biotechnological commodity for the foreseeable future, this review focuses on advances made with respect to the development of tailor-made yeast strains for the fermented beverage and biofuel industries.