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Open Access Open Badges Research article

Niche-driven evolution of metabolic and life-history strategies in natural and domesticated populations of Saccharomyces cerevisiae

Aymé Spor*, Thibault Nidelet, Jonattan Simon, Aurélie Bourgais, Dominique de Vienne and Delphine Sicard

Author Affiliations

Univ Paris-Sud, UMR de Génétique Végétale, INRA/Univ Paris-Sud/CNRS/AgroParisTech, Ferme du Moulon, Gif-sur-Yvette, F-91190, France

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2009, 9:296  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-9-296

Published: 22 December 2009



Variation of resource supply is one of the key factors that drive the evolution of life-history strategies, and hence the interactions between individuals. In the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, two life-history strategies related to different resource utilization have been previously described in strains from different industrial origins. In this work, we analyzed metabolic traits and life-history strategies in a broader collection of yeast strains sampled in various ecological niches (forest, human body, fruits, laboratory and industrial environments).


By analysing the genetic and plastic variation of six life-history and three metabolic traits, we showed that S. cerevisiae populations harbour different strategies depending on their ecological niches. On one hand, the forest and laboratory strains, referred to as extreme "ants", reproduce quickly, reach a large carrying capacity and a small cell size in fermentation, but have a low reproduction rate in respiration. On the other hand, the industrial strains, referred to as extreme "grasshoppers", reproduce slowly, reach a small carrying capacity but have a big cell size in fermentation and a high reproduction rate in respiration. "Grasshoppers" have usually higher glucose consumption rate than "ants", while they produce lower quantities of ethanol, suggesting that they store cell resources rather than secreting secondary products to cross-feed or poison competitors. The clinical and fruit strains are intermediate between these two groups.


Altogether, these results are consistent with a niche-driven evolution of S. cerevisiae, with phenotypic convergence of populations living in similar habitat. They also revealed that competition between strains having contrasted life-history strategies ("ants" and "grasshoppers") seems to occur at low frequency or be unstable since opposite life-history strategies appeared to be maintained in distinct ecological niches.