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Keywords:

  • glacial environments;
  • psychrophilic yeasts;
  • yeast diversity;
  • adaptation strategies;
  • biotechnological potential

Abstract

Glacial habitats (cryosphere) include some of the largest unexplored and extreme biospheres on Earth. These habitats harbor a wide diversity of psychrophilic prokaryotic and eukaryotic microorganisms. These highly specialized microorganisms have developed adaptation strategies to overcome the direct and indirect life-endangering influence of low temperatures. For many years Antarctica has been the geographic area preferred by microbiologists for studying the diversity of psychrophilic microorganisms (including yeasts). However, there have been an increasing number of studies on psychrophilic yeasts sharing the non-Antarctic cryosphere. The present paper provides an overview of the distribution and adaptation strategies of psychrophilic yeasts worldwide. Attention is also focused on their biotechnological potential, especially on their exploitation as a source of cold-active enzymes and for bioremediation purposes.