WALNUT CREEK, CA--With public concerns at a fevered pitch over the bacterial contamination of spinach, it is easy to lose track of how bland and deprived our world would be without the contribution to our food supply of such benign microbial players as lactic acid-producing bacteria. Researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute (DOE JGI) and the University of California, Davis, and their colleagues have characterized the genome sequences of nine different lactic acid-producing bacteria, or LAB, and have published their findings in the October 17 edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (http://www.pnas.org/cgi/content/abstract/0607117103v1). The small LAB genomes encode a diverse repertoire of genes for efficient carbon and nitrogen acquisition from the nutritionally rich environments they inhabit and reflect a limited range of biosynthetic capabilities promising broad industrial applications.
Lactic acid-producing bacteria play a key role in the production of fermented foods and beverages, accounting for tens of billions of dollars in sales annually. Products constituting a fine repast, such as wine, salami, cheese, sourdough bread, pickles, yogurt, cocoa, and coffee are all enhanced by LAB, which ferment six-carbon sugars, or hexoses, to produce lactic acid.
"DOE JGI's contribution to the whole study of lactic acid bacteria is simply immense," said David Mills, Associate Professor, Viticulture & Enology, University of California, Davis, and senior author on the study. "Access to the genome sequences for these fermentative microorganisms will dramatically increase our understanding of their role in industrial food production, leading to more optimized production schemes. For example, a better understanding of the role of lactic acid bacteria in cheese ripening will result in production strategies that reduce ripening time and t
Contact: David Gilbert
DOE/Joint Genome Institute