Yeast were first identified by Pasteur around 1860 and the isolation and propagation of Saccharomyces cerevisiae soon followed. However, for over a hundred years, yeast were mostly isolated from wild fermentations and propagated based on their fermentative and organoleptic properties. Not until the 1990’s did we really start breeding or mutating yeasts to try to create better performing strains. While much improved, this approach was still fairly random and laborious. The sequencing of the Saccharomyces cerevisiae genome in 1996 led to better understanding of gene-by-gene and protein-by-protein performance of yeast, but it didn’t assess the holistic environment. It allowed understanding how a gene might work but not how it would work in a changing environment or how it might interact with other genes.
To propagate yeast that create higher quality cider that is also healthier and cheaper to produce, we must understand how genes, proteins (enzymes), and metabolites interact as a system. This requires systems biology, which is made up of the ‘omics’(1). The ‘omics’ are five fields of study: genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics, metabolomics, and fluxomics. Interactomics is the study of these five area as a holistic system. The following is an overview of these five fields, which make up the study of interactomics. .
- Genomics: Defining how genes respond and adapt to environmental stimuli.
- Transcriptomics: Defining how genes interact simultaneously to understand their roles.
- Proteomics: Identifying and characterizing complete sets of proteins and protein–protein interactions to create a cellular map.
- Metabolomics: Identifying the metabolites present under various environmental conditions to understand new pathways.
- Fluxomics: Identifying the metabolites levels and rates at which they are consumed (flux).
Interactomics is relatively new or at least the ability to truly assess it is new. This is because of the advances being made in understanding the yeast genome. It is also enabling both traditional methods of hybridizing and cultivating new yeast strains as well as genetic engineering of new strains. Whether you embrace genetic engineering or not, the tools that enable it are also enabling a better understanding of the holistic system of fermentation. But, we are only starting to understand this very complex process. While you may not be specifically interested in interactomics, you may ultimately be interested if it identifies or helps create a yeast that can make a naturally sweet or dry cider with great aromas that is naturally stable and healthier. That is why interactomics is a Cider Word and why you should at least be excited that others are exploring this field of study.
(1) B. Divol and associates (2010), Metabolic engineering of wine yeast and advances in yeast selection methods for improved wine quality, A. G. Reynolds (Eds), Managing Wine Quality (Vol. 2, Ch 2, No 192), Woodhead Publishing
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