Viability-PCR Allows Monitoring Yeast Population Dynamics in Mixed Fermentations Including Viable but Non-Culturable Yeasts


The use of controlled mixed inocula of Saccharomyces cerevisiae and non-Saccharomyces yeasts is a common practice in winemaking, with Torulaspora delbrueckii, Lachancea thermotolerans and Metschnikowia pulcherrima being the most commonly used non-Saccharomyces species. Although S. cerevisiae is usually the dominant yeast at the end of mixed fermentations, some non-Saccharomyces species are also able to reach the late stages; such species may not grow in culture media, which is a status known as viable but non-culturable (VBNC). Thus, an accurate methodology to properly monitor viable yeast population dynamics during alcoholic fermentation is required to understand microbial interactions and the contribution of each species to the final product. Quantitative PCR (qPCR) has been found to be a good and sensitive method for determining the identity of the cell population, but it cannot distinguish the DNA from living and dead cells, which can overestimate the final population results. To address this shortcoming, viability dyes can be used to avoid the amplification and, therefore, the quantification of DNA from non-viable cells. In this study, we validated the use of PMAxx dye (an optimized version of propidium monoazide (PMA) dye) coupled with qPCR (PMAxx-qPCR), as a tool to monitor the viable population dynamics of the most common yeast species used in wine mixed fermentations (S. cerevisiae, T. delbrueckii, L. thermotolerans and M. pulcherrima), comparing the results with non-dyed qPCR and colony counting on differential medium. Our results showed that the PMAxx-qPCR assay used in this study is a reliable, specific and fast method for quantifying these four yeast species during the alcoholic fermentation process, being able to distinguish between living and dead yeast populations. Moreover, the entry into VBNC status was observed for the first time in L. thermotolerans and S. cerevisiae during alcoholic fermentation. Further studies are needed to unravel which compounds trigger this VBNC state during alcoholic fermentation in these species, which would help to better understand yeast interactions.


DOI: 10.3390/foods9101373

Projects: CoolWine

Publication type: Journal

Journal: Foods

Citation: Foods 9(10):1373

Date Published: 1st Oct 2020

Registered Mode: by DOI

Authors: Yurena Navarro, María-Jesús Torija, Albert Mas, Gemma Beltran

Navarro, Y., Torija, M.-J., Mas, A., & Beltran, G. (2020). Viability-PCR Allows Monitoring Yeast Population Dynamics in Mixed Fermentations Including Viable but Non-Culturable Yeasts. In Foods (Vol. 9, Issue 10, p. 1373). MDPI AG.

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Created: 1st Mar 2021 at 14:22

Last updated: 1st Mar 2021 at 14:24

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