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J Dairy Sci. 2000 Dec;83(12):2740-6.

Diversity of sulfur compound production in lactic acid bacteria.

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Center for Microbe Detection and Physiology, Western Dairy Center, Department of Nutrition and Food Sciences, Utah State University, Logan 84322-8700, USA.


Volatile sulfur compounds such as methanethiol, dimethyl disulfide, dimethyl trisulfide, and hydrogen sulfide constitute an important fraction of Cheddar cheese flavor. These compounds are products of the catabolism of methionine and cysteine by bacteria in the cheese matrix. The objectives of this study were to examine the levels and types of volatile sulfur compounds produced from methionine by lactic acid bacteria frequently used in cheese making and to investigate cystathionine degrading activity, which may be responsible for the liberation of these compounds. Gas chromatography with headspace sampling was used to determine volatile sulfur compounds (VSC) produced by whole cells of 24 strains of lactobacilli and 13 strains of lactococci incubated with methionine. Total VSC production varied widely in the species and subspecies tested. Nearly all strains produced VSC from methionine, but the enzyme responsible for this activity remains unclear. Cystathionine-degrading ability and the effect of methionine concentration on this ability of some of the strains was investigated. Increasing the concentrations of methionine inhibited the cystathionine-degrading ability of lactococci, but not of lactobacilli. Lactococci were found to require methionine for growth, while lactobacilli required both methionine and cysteine. Because of the low level of cystathionine-degrading activity in lactobacilli and the inhibition of this activity by methionine in lactococci, VSC production is likely due to enzymes other than cystathionine beta- and gamma-lyase in whole cells.

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