Spontaneous Changes in Ploidy Are Common in Yeast

Yaniv Harari, Yoav Ram, Nimrod Rappoport, Lilach Hadany, Martin Kupiec*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


Changes in ploidy are relatively rare, but play important roles in the development of cancer and the acquisition of long-term adaptations. Genome duplications occur across the tree of life, and can alter the rate of adaptive evolution. Moreover, by allowing the subsequent loss of individual chromosomes and the accumulation of mutations, changes in ploidy can promote genomic instability and/or adaptation. Although many studies have been published in the last years about changes in chromosome number and their evolutionary consequences, tracking and measuring the rate of whole-genome duplications have been extremely challenging. We have systematically studied the appearance of diploid cells among haploid yeast cultures evolving for over 100 generations in different media. We find that spontaneous diploidization is a relatively common event, which is usually selected against, but under certain stressful conditions may become advantageous. Furthermore, we were able to detect and distinguish between two different mechanisms of diploidization, one that requires whole-genome duplication (endoreduplication) and a second that involves mating-type switching despite the use of heterothallic strains. Our results have important implications for our understanding of evolution and adaptation in fungal pathogens and the development of cancer, and for the use of yeast cells in biotechnological applications. Changes in ploidy play important roles in cancer and long-term adaptation. However, the rate of whole-genome duplications is not known. Harari et al. find that diploidization in yeast is common and usually selected against, but may become advantageous under certain stresses. Two mechanisms for genome diploidization are described and quantified.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)825-835.e4
JournalCurrent Biology
Issue number6
StatePublished - 19 Mar 2018


FundersFunder number
Minerva Foundation
Israel Science Foundation


    • Saccharomyces cerevisiae
    • endoreduplication
    • evolution
    • fluctuation test
    • mating-type switch
    • ploidy
    • yeast


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