Chromosome level assembly and comparative genome analysis confirm lager-brewing yeasts originated from a single hybridization

The lager brewing yeast, S. pastorianus, is a hybrid between S. cerevisiae and S. eubayanus with extensive chromosome aneuploidy. S. pastorianus is subdivided into Group 1 and Group 2 strains, where Group 2 strains have higher copy number and a larger degree of heterozygosity for S. cerevisiae chromosomes. As a result, Group 2 strains were hypothesized to have emerged from a hybridization event distinct from Group 1 strains. Current genome assemblies of S. pastorianus strains are incomplete and highly fragmented, limiting our ability to investigate their evolutionary history.

To fill this gap, we generated a chromosome-level genome assembly of the S. pastorianus strain CBS 1483 from Oxford Nanopore MinION DNA sequencing data and analysed the newly assembled subtelomeric regions and chromosome heterozygosity.

To analyse the evolutionary history of S. pastorianus strains, we developed Alpaca: a method to compute sequence similarity between genomes without assuming linear evolution. Alpaca revealed high similarities between the S. cerevisiae subgenomes of Group 1 and 2 strains, and marked differences from sequenced S. cerevisiae strains.

Our findings suggest that Group 1 and Group 2 strains originated from a single hybridization involving a heterozygous S. cerevisiae strain, followed by different evolutionary trajectories. The clear differences between both groups may originate from a severe population bottleneck caused by the isolation of the first pure cultures. Alpaca provides a computationally inexpensive method to analyse evolutionary relationships while considering non-linear evolution such as horizontal gene transfer and sexual reproduction, providing a complementary viewpoint beyond traditional phylogenetic approaches.

Authors: Alex N. Salazar, Arthur R. Gorter de Vries, Marcel van den Broek, Nick Brouwers, Pilar de la Torre Cortès, Niels G. A. Kuijpers, Jean-Marc G. Daran, Thomas Abeel