Yeasts are unicellular fungi that do not form fruiting bodies. Although the yeast lifestyle has evolved multiple times, most known species belong to the subphylum Saccharomycotina (syn. Hemiascomycota, hereafter yeasts). This diverse group includes the premier eukaryotic model system, Saccharomyces cerevisiae; the common human commensal and opportunistic pathogen, Candida albicans; and over 1000 other known species (with more continuing to be discovered). Yeasts are found in every biome and continent and are more genetically diverse than angiosperms or chordates. Ease of culture, simple life cycles, and small genomes (∼10-20Mbp) have made yeasts exceptional models for molecular genetics, biotechnology, and evolutionary genomics. Here we discuss recent developments in understanding the genomic underpinnings of the making of yeast biodiversity, comparing and contrasting natural and human-associated evolutionary processes. Only a tiny fraction of yeast biodiversity and metabolic capabilities has been tapped by industry and science. Expanding the taxonomic breadth of deep genomic investigations will further illuminate how genome function evolves to encode their diverse metabolisms and ecologies.
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