Intellectual merit: Saccharomyces cerevisiae has been domesticated by humans over thousands of years for use in brewing and baking. This domestication involves metabolic specialization of Saccharomyces cerevisiae. For example, brewing strains have been specialized to ferment substrates particular to a culture or region and to ferment under different conditions (temperature, fermentation length, oxygen availability, etc.). Genomic analysis has shown that these domesticated fermentation species have between 30,000-90,000 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) with respect to the standard laboratory strain. Some of this natural genetic variation is responsible for the brewing strains adaptation to its particular fermentation process. This research will identify that causative genetic variation and illuminate how cells regulate their metabolism of fundamental nutrients such as carbon and nitrogen.
Broader impacts: From an educational standpoint, this project will have a vast broader impact. It will provide 20-40 undergraduates experience with genome-scale data in addition to standard molecular and microbiological techniques. These experiences will take place in the research-intensive course Bio 176: Research in Systems Biology. This course is an upper division project laboratory class focused directly on the specific aims of this project. This course is the capstone of the Biotechnology Program at Santa Clara University, through which students learn sophisticated microbiological, molecular biological, and biochemical techniques, and explore the social ramifications of biotechnology. This capstone is designed to integrate their technical skills with critical thinking skills allowing students to obtain skilled positions in life science research after graduation. In supporting these students and the development of this course, this research will strongly support the undergraduate-focused educational mission of Santa Clara University