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Journal Article

The ecology of killer yeasts: interference competition in natural habitats


Boynton,  Primrose J.
Max Planck Fellow Group Environmental Genomics, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology, Max Planck Society;

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Boynton, P. J. (2019). The ecology of killer yeasts: interference competition in natural habitats. Yeast, 36(8), 473-485. doi:10.1002/yea.3398.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0004-41FB-8
Abstract Killer yeasts are ubiquitous in the environment: They have been found in diverse habitats ranging from ocean sediment to decaying cacti to insect bodies and on all continents including Antarctica. However, environmental killer yeasts are poorly studied compared with laboratory and domesticated killer yeasts. Killer yeasts secrete so-called killer toxins that inhibit nearby sensitive yeasts, and the toxins are frequently assumed to be tools for interference competition in diverse yeast communities. The diversity and ubiquity of killer yeasts imply that interference competition is crucial for shaping yeast communities. Additionally, these toxins may have ecological functions beyond use in interference competition. This review introduces readers to killer yeasts in environmental systems, with a focus on what is and is not known about their ecology and evolution. It also explores how results from experimental killer systems in laboratories can be extended to understand how competitive strategies shape yeast communities in nature. Overall, killer yeasts are likely to occur everywhere yeasts are found, and the killer phenotype has the potential to radically shape yeast diversity in nature.