During wine fermentation, different strains of Saccharomyces cerevisiae compete in the same fermenting must and dominance takes place when one strain overcomes all the others. The purpose of this study was to investigate this phenomenon by identifying S. cerevisiae strains endowed with this feature and to test them in laboratory fermentations.
First, autochthonous S. cerevisiae from Nebbiolo fermentations were isolated, molecularly identified and characterized.
Genetically diverse S. cerevisiae strains were subsequently subjected to physiological characterization and to micro-scale fermentation, the weight loss kinetics was measured and HPLC analysis was performed at the end of the fermentation.
Then, the strains that presented good fermentation characteristics were chosen for further analysis and to determine the dominance feature. For this purpose, couples of strains were co-inoculated in Nebbiolo must and the fermentations were monitored by microbiological and chemical analysis.
Two different inoculation approaches were used: co-fermentations in flasks with mixed cells and reactor co-fermentations, in which the cells from the two different strains were kept separate by means of a 0.45 ìm filter membrane, which allowed the fermenting must to move freely between the two compartments.
During the flask co-fermentations, a minisatellite PCR protocol was applied, in order to differentiate the two strains and determine which one was able to dominate. The protocol included a culture-dependent approach and an independent one.
In the first case, DNA extraction was performed on all the colonies scraped off the plates after sampling. In the second case, DNA extraction was performed directly on the fermenting must.
The strains that were able to dominate were tested against several S. cerevisiae in order to confirm this dominance behavior.
Dominance was observed in the early stages of fermentation, as early as 3 days. Combinations of dominant and not-dominant strains were subjected to further tests in a co-fermentation reactor system, in order to perform single-strain analysis so as to obtain a better understanding of the dominance behavior.
Surprisingly, the results obtained in the flask co-fermentations were not confirmed. In fact, the two strains, one which was hypothesized to be dominant and the other not-dominant, coexisted throughout the fermentation period.
The results of this study suggest that the dominant behavior of S. cerevisiae is only expressed when they sense other yeasts in the same environment.
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