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FEMS Microbiol Rev. 1999 Apr;23(2):153-77.

Heteropolysaccharides from lactic acid bacteria.

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Division of Industrial Microbiology, Fermentation Technology and Downstream Processing (IMDO), Faculty of Sciences, Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), Belgium.


Microbial exopolysaccharides are biothickeners that can be added to a wide variety of food products, where they serve as viscosifying, stabilizing, emulsifying or gelling agents. Numerous exopolysaccharides with different composition, size and structure are synthesized by lactic acid bacteria. The heteropolysaccharides from both mesophilic and thermophilic lactic acid bacteria have received renewed interest recently. Structural analysis combined with rheological studies revealed that there is considerable variation among the different exopolysaccharides; some of them exhibit remarkable thickening and shear-thinning properties and display high intrinsic viscosities. Hence, several slime-producing lactic acid bacterium strains and their biopolymers have interesting functional and technological properties, which may be exploited towards different products, in particular, natural fermented milks. However, information on the biosynthesis, molecular organization and fermentation conditions is rather scarce, and the kinetics of exopolysaccharide formation are poorly described. Moreover, the production of exopolysaccharides is low and often unstable, and their downstream processing is difficult. This review particularly deals with microbiological, biochemical and technological aspects of heteropolysaccharides from, and their production by, lactic acid bacteria. The chemical composition and structure, the biosynthesis, genetics and molecular organization, the nutritional and physiological aspects, the process technology, and both food additive and in situ applications (in particular in yogurt) of heterotype exopolysaccharides from lactic acid bacteria are described. Where appropriate, suggestions are made for strain improvement, enhanced productivities and advanced modification and production processes (involving enzyme and/or fermentation technology) that may contribute to the economic soundness of applications with this promising group of biomolecules.

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