Establishing a risk-assessment process for release of genetically modified wine yeast into the environment

Heidi Schoeman, Gideon M. Wolfaardt, Alfred Botha, Pierre Van Rensburg, Isak S. Pretorius

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


The use and release of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is an issue of intense public concern and, in the case of food and beverages, products containing GMOs or products thereof carry the risk of consumer rejection. The recent commercialization of 2 GM wine yeasts in the United States and Canada has made research and development of risk assessments for GM microorganisms a priority. The purpose of this study was to take a first step in establishing a risk-assessment process for future use and potential release of GM wine yeasts into the environment. The behaviour and spread of a GM wine yeast was monitored in saturated sand columns, saturated sand flow cells, and conventional flow cells. A widely used commercial Saccharomyces cerevisiae wine yeast, VIN13, a VIN13 transgenic strain (LKA1, which carries the LKA1 α-amylase gene of Lipomyces kononenkoae), a soil bacterium (Dyadobacter fermentens), and a nonwine soil-borne yeast (Cryptococcus laurentii) were compared in laboratory-scale microcosm systems designed to monitor microbial mobility behaviour, survival, and attachment to surfaces. It was found that LKA1 cells survived in saturated sand columns, but showed little mobility in the porous matrix, suggesting that the cells attached with high efficiency to sand. There was no significant difference between the mobility patterns of LKA1 and VIN13. All 3 yeasts (VIN13, LKA1, and C. laurentii) were shown to form stable biofilms; the 2 S. cerevisiae strains either had no difference in biofilm density or the LKA1 biofilm was less dense than that of VIN13. When co-inoculated with C. laurentii, LKA1 had no negative influence on the breakthrough of the Cryptococcus yeast in a sand column or on its ability to form biofilms. In addition, LKA1 did not successfully integrate into a stable mixed-biofilm community, nor did it disrupt the biofilm community. Overall, it was concluded that the LKA1 transgenic yeast had the same reproductive success as VIN13 in these 3 microcosms and had no selective advantage over the untransformed parental strain.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)990-1002
Number of pages13
JournalCanadian Journal of Microbiology
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2009
Externally publishedYes


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