Saccharomyces boulardii, a yeast that was isolated from fruit in Indochina, has been used as a remedy for diarrhoea since 1950 and is now a commercially available treatment throughout Europe, Africa and South America. Though initially classified as a separate species of Saccharomyces, recent publications have shown that the genome of S. boulardii is so similar to Saccharomyces cerevisiae that the two should be classified as conspecific. This raises the question of the distinguishing molecular and phenotypic characteristics present in S. boulardii that make it perform more effectively as a probiotic organism compared to other strains of S. cerevisiae. This investigation reports some of these distinguishing characteristics including enhanced ability for pseudohyphal switching upon nitrogen limitation and increased resistance to acidic pH. However, these differences did not correlate with increased adherence to epithelial cells or transit through mouse gut. Pertinent characteristics of the S. boulardii genome such as trisomy of chromosome IX, altered copy number of a number of individual genes and sporulation deficiency have been revealed by comparative genome hybridisation using oligonucleotide-based microarrays coupled with a rigorous statistical analysis. The contributions of the different genomic and phenotypic features of S. boulardii to its probiotic nature are discussed.
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