George van der Merwe

Email Address
[email protected]
Research Description

Yeasts are confronted with an array of challenging conditions in their natural environment and during commercial fermentation processes. For example, yeasts have to cope with fluctuating nutrient availability and temperatures, and with increasing concentrations of ethanol and acids. My lab studies the mechanisms that allow yeasts to adapt to these stressful situations. Knowledge generated from this research would enable us to devise strategies to improve the stress tolerance, vitality, and efficiency of yeast during its performance of alcoholic fermentations.

Research Summary

My lines of research include:
1) Adaptation to changing nutrient environments: We have identified an E3 ubiquitin ligase, the Vid30 or GID (Glucose Induced degradation Deficient) complex, as a novel component on the regulation of the transcriptomic and proteomic adaptation of yeast to changing nutrient conditions. Elucidating its mechanism of function in nutrient adaptation will not only increase our fundamental understanding metabolic regulation in eukaryotic cells, but also increase our understanding of the continuous nutrient depletion yeasts experience during fermentation.
2) Yeast domestication and fermentations: There are several aspects of yeast domestication that remain unresolved. Unraveling the origins and molecular underpinnings of domesticated traits will increase our understanding of yeast performance thereby developing strategies and predictions of fermentation efficiencies and flavour compound production during alcoholic fermentations (e.g. beer, cider, sparkling wine production).
3) Yeast diversity: wwWhile species of the genus Saccharomyces are commonly used in alcoholic fermentations, several non-Saccharomyces yeasts produce unique flavour compounds thereby adding flavour complexity and expanding product diversity in the wine, beer and cider industries. Understanding the contributions of these yeasts to flavour complexity will allow the development of strategies to increase product diversity in the beer and cider industries.

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