We use the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae as a model system due to the “awesome power” of yeast genetics. Our research is two fold, with a strong emphasis on fundamental yeast biology and a focus on applications for the wine and other fermentation based industries. Our main area of research is the investigation of utilization of carbon and energy sources in yeast, with a specific focus on how eukaryotic cells detect energy sources in their environment and prioritize use when presented with a mixture of substrates. We are also concerned with the sluggish or arrested fermentations which are a problem for wine makers the world over. These fermentations are caused by the failure of the yeast to consume and metabolize all of the available sugar into ethanol, CO2 and other byproducts. We are also investigating the ability of a particular yeast prion state known as [GAR+] which can influence the fermentative capacity and dominance of a yeast population in wine.
Work conducted in our laboratory has led to the identification of the first eukaryotic glucose sensor, the SNF3 gene, and to the discovery of a large multigene family of hexose transporters, the HXT (HeXose Transporter) genes of Saccharomyces. More recently our laboratory in conjunction with Phyterra developed an array of strains with a naturally occurring mutant allele of MET10 that eliminates hydrogen sulfide (H2S) production in wine.