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Crit Rev Microbiol. 2006;32(2):77-86.

Environmental stress response in wine lactic acid bacteria: beyond Bacillus subtilis.

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Department of Food Science, Foggia University, via Napoli 25, 71100 Foggia, Italy.


Lactic acid bacteria (LAB) constitute a heterogeneous group of bacteria that are traditionally used to produce fermented foods. The industrialization of food transformations has increased the economical importance of LAB, as they play a crucial role in the development of the organoleptic and hygienic quality of fermented products. However, the strains selected for industrial purposes, should tolerate adverse conditions encountered in industrial processes, either during starter handling and storage (freeze-drying, freezing, or spray-drying) or during food processing in which abiotic stresses such as heat, cold, acidity, and high concentration of NaCl or ethanol are common. Wine LAB have to deal with several stresses including an acidic pH, a high alcoholic content, non optimal growth temperatures, and growth-inhibitory compounds such as fatty acids and tannins, originated from yeast and bacteria metabolism. Wine LAB have developed several mechanisms to escape or to tolerate wine conditions. They carry out a malolactic fermentation in this stressful environment. In addition to the regulation of the expression of specific genes, bacteria have evolved adaptive networks to face the challenges of a changing environment and to survive under conditions of stress. The so called Global Regulatory Systems control the simultaneous expression of a large number of genes in response to a variety of environmental stress factors. CIRCE sequences able to bind the HrcA repressor, sigma(B) dependent promoters and CtsR regulatory elements have been observed in several genes identified from wine LAB. Improved knowledge of regulators and a better understanding of LAB stress responses could constitute a basis of comparison with the well known model microorganisms, Escherichia coli and Bacillus subtilis. Moreover, it can provide an important insight into improving current industrial starter strains.

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