Saccharomyces cerevisiae is predominantly found in association with human activities, particularly the production of alcoholic beverages. S. paradoxus, the closest known relative of S. cerevisiae, is commonly found on exudates and bark of deciduous trees and in associated soils. This has lead to the idea that S. cerevisiae is a domesticated species, specialized for the fermentation of alcoholic beverages, and isolates of S. cerevisiae from other sources simply represent migrants from these fermentations. We have surveyed DNA sequence diversity at five loci in 81 strains of S. cerevisiae that were isolated from a variety of human and natural fermentations as well as sources unrelated to alcoholic beverage production, such as tree exudates and immunocompromised patients. Diversity within vineyard strains and within sake strains is low, consistent with their status as domesticated stocks. The oldest lineages and the majority of variation are found in strains from sources unrelated to wine production. We propose a model whereby two specialized breeds of S. cerevisiae have been created, one for the production of grape wine and one for the production of sake wine. We estimate that these two breeds have remained isolated from one another for thousands of years, consistent with the earliest archeological evidence for wine-making. We conclude that although there are clearly strains of S. cerevisiae specialized for the production of alcoholic beverages, these have been derived from natural populations unassociated with alcoholic beverage production, rather than the opposite.
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