Killer yeasts are microorganisms, which can produce and secrete proteinaceous toxins, a characteristic gained via viral infection. These toxins are able to kill sensitive cells of the same or a related species. From a biotechnological perspective, killer yeasts have been considered as beneficial due to their antifungal/antimicrobial activity, but also regarded as problematic for large-scale fermentation processes, whereby those yeasts would kill species off starter cultures and lead to stuck fermentations. Here, we propose a mechanistic model of the toxin-binding kinetics pertaining to the killer population coupled with the toxin-induced death kinetics of the sensitive population to study toxic action in silico. Our deterministic model explains how killer Saccharomyces cerevisiae cells distress and consequently kill the sensitive members of the species, accounting for the K1, K2 and K28 toxin mode of action at high or low concentrations. The dynamic model captured the transient toxic activity starting from the introduction of killer cells into the culture at the time of inoculation through to induced cell death, and allowed us to gain novel insight on these mechanisms. The kinetics of K1/K2 activity via its primary pathway of toxicity was 5.5 times faster than its activity at low concentration inducing the apoptotic pathway in sensitive cells. Conversely, we showed that the primary pathway for K28 was approximately 3 times slower than its equivalent apoptotic pathway, indicating the particular relevance of K28 in biotechnological applications where the toxin concentration is rarely above those limits to trigger the primary pathway of killer activity.

  • This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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