Video transcript: More than bread and beer: The National Collection of Yeast Cultures

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November 2013

Dr Steve James, National Collection of Yeast Cultures, IFR
Ok, so this is where we store our yeast. Forgive the background noise but in here there is a lot of machinery to keep the yeast and the machinery in here cool. So this is our liquid nitrogen storage facility. There is about 200 litres of liquid nitrogen in there and it holds the yeast somewhere in the region of 4000 yeast strains are currently stored in there under liquid nitrogen which is at -196°C.

Video shows Steve James putting on a safety helmet ready to open up the liquid nitrogen storage facility

Ok. So now we will open it up and show you what is in there.

Dr Ian Roberts, Curator, National Collection of Yesat Cultures, IFR
Ok, so the National Collection of Yeast Cultures as you probably won't be surprised to learn is a collection of yeasts we have been collecting now since 1948 and our aim is to collect the broadest diversity of yeast possible. So what we are trying to do is to maximise the available gene pool for exploitation in industry.

Video shows Steve James opening the liquid nitrogen storage facility

They are used for all sorts of things in industry and it is not just for brewing and baking but there are a whole load of biotechnological applications and indeed it is a very leading organism in academic research as well. We try to keep a whole broad range of different icelets from the environment, icelets from industrial processes.

Video shows Steve James pulling out one of the yeast columns

Steve James
So this is one of the columns where the yeast are stored in. So each drawer has got quite a number of straws of each yeast strain so each yeast is probably there in about at least six different straws.

Video shows scanning electron micrographs (SEM) of different strains of yeast

Ian Roberts
The modern applications of yeast are very much in the area of industrial biotechnology so we are looking for yeast that can produce fuels and chemicals so that the chemicals of the future, we think, will be based on bio-based renewable substrates and that's the kind of thing we are looking to utilise our yeast in the biorefinery.

They say that the stone age didn't end because we ran out of stone, I think the oil age won't end because we run out of oil, we will just find better more renewal ways, more environmentally friendly ways of doing it and yeast have a whole plethora of different genes and genetic diversity, the way that they put their genes together, the way that they make or even metabolise substrates such as wheat straw or derivatives of wheat straw, for example, is one way that we will use yeast in the future.

Video shows David Wilson with a bulk bag of oil seed rape straw

Dr David Wilson, NRP Biorefinery Centre
This material is oil seed rape straw. It is one of the food chain wastes that we work on here at the Biorefinery Centre and we use this material as a starting point to make products such as ethanol, platform and fine chemicals using yeast from the National Collection of Yeast Cultures.

Video shows Keith Waldron in the NRP Biorefinery Centre, scanning across the bioreactors

Professor Keith Waldron, Director, NRP Biorefinery Centre
One of the things we have been developing are specialised bioreactors that can handle biomas and enable the yeast to operate optimally and we will be using those to produce the various platform chemicals which can then be purified and exploited.

Video shows Steve James with the liquid nitrogen storage facility

Steve James
You know, for the long term storage this is really the gold standard. So this is our primary storage of the yeasts and we also have the yeast stored as freeze-dried ampules upstairs in the cold room.

Video shows technique of freeze-drying yeast in glass ampules

Ian Roberts
Ok, so the main preservation technique we use is under liquid nitrogen but in fact for distributing yeast around the world it is better to put them into a more robust transport medium and we use freeze-dried glass ampules as the main way of doing that because once they are freeze-dried and they're under vacuum then they are very stable and can survive very extreme temperatures in the post and arrive in a good form for re-generating when they get to the final destination.

Steve James
Yes, it is quite easy to revive. The key thing is not to thaw them too quickly because what you are trying to avoid is ice crystals forming because if you get ice crystals form within the cells then the cells will just burst. So it is a controlled thaw but once you have done that they revive very quickly and you can have a healthy culture growing within 2 to 3 days.

Ian Roberts
We are currently being funded as a BBSRC National Capability so it is recognised that the physical collection is just one aspect of the national capability. We have links to the synthetic yeast project, we have links to various biorefinery research that is going on in the UK, so it is very much a multi vested operation that provides that national capability. It is not just the genetic resources in the collection.



This video may be reproduced in its entirety with due credit to BBSRC.

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  • Images: 2x yeast SEM pans and yeast growth from www.sciencephoto.com
    Digital yeast growth (cc) PLOS ONE Movie S2, S3, S4 from Charvin G, Cross F, Siggia E (2008)
  • Music: 'Melt' of Africa from cinephonix.com