Biology of killer yeasts
Killer yeasts secrete proteinaceous killer toxins lethal to susceptible yeast strains. These toxins have no activity against microorganisms other than yeasts, and the killer strains are insensitive to their own toxins. Killer toxins differ between species or strains, showing diverse characteristics in terms of structural genes, molecular size, mature structure and immunity. The mechanisms of recognizing and killing sensitive cells differ for each toxin. Killer yeasts and their toxins have many potential applications in environmental, medical and industrial biotechnology. They are also suitable to study the mechanisms of protein processing and secretion, and toxin interaction with sensitive cells. This review focuses on the biological diversity of the killer toxins described up to now and their potential biotechnological applications.