Adaptive evolution of sulfite tolerance in Brettanomyces bruxellensis

Caroline Bartel, Michael Roach, Cristobal Onetto, Chris Curtin, Cristian Varela, Anthony Borneman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Brettanomyces bruxellensis is considered one of the most problematic microbes associated with wine production. Sulfur dioxide is commonly used to inhibit the growth of B. bruxellensis and limit the potential wine spoilage. Brettanomyces bruxellensis wine isolates can grow at higher concentrations of this preservative than isolates from other sources. Thus, it has been suggested that the use of sulfite may have selected for B. bruxellensis strains better adapted to survive in the winemaking environment. We utilized laboratory adaptive evolution to determine the potential for this to occur. Three B. bruxellensis strains, representative of known genetic variation within the species, were subjected to increasing sublethal sulfur dioxide concentrations. Individual clones isolated from evolved populations displayed enhanced sulfite tolerance, ranging from 1.6 to 2.5 times higher than the corresponding parental strains. Whole-genome sequencing of sulfite-tolerant clones derived from two of the parental strains revealed structural variations affecting 270 genes. The region containing the sulfite efflux pump encoding gene, SSU1, showed clear copy number variants in all sequenced clones. Regardless of parental strain genetic background, SSU1 copy number changes were reproducibly associated with one SSU1 haplotype. This work clearly demonstrates adaptive evolution of B. bruxellensis when exposed to sublethal sulfites and suggests that, similar to Saccharomyces cerevisiae wine yeast, the mechanism responsible involves the gene SSU1.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberfoab036
Number of pages12
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • adaptive evolution
  • Brettanomyces bruxellensis
  • SO2
  • sulfite tolerance
  • wine
  • yeast


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