What is yeast?


Quick Answer

Yeast is a fungus. It is a eukaryotic, single-celled microorganism that belongs to the Fungi kingdom. Yeasts are classified into two different phyla: sac fungi and higher fungi. Many of them reproduce asexually by mitosis, specifically through a process called budding.

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Full Answer

Yeast possesses a cellular structure much like that of higher organisms. Its genetic content is contained inside a nucleus, which is why it is classified as a eukaryotic organism. On the other hand, bacteria lack a nucleus, causing them to be classified as prokaryotes.

Yeasts are commonly found on fruits, plant leaves, flowers and soil. They are also found in the intestinal tracts of mammals or on the surface of the skin, where they live as parasites.

Yeast has many uses. Primarily, it converts carbohydrates to carbon dioxide and alcohol during fermentation. For hundreds of years, yeast has been used in baking, as well as in the making of wine, beer and other alcoholic beverages. In recent years, it has been used to produce ethanol for the biofuel industry and to generate electricity in microbial fuel cells.

In modern cell biology research, yeast is one of the most researched eukaryotic organisms. These studies have helped researchers identify certain species of yeasts that cause infections in humans.

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