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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2006 Sep;72(9):6053-61.

Two 2[5H]-furanones as possible signaling molecules in Lactobacillus helveticus.

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Dipartimento Scienze degli Alimenti, Alma Mater Studiorum, University of Bologna, Via Fanin 46, 40127 Bologna, Italy.


Two 2[5H]-furanones, in association with medium-chain fatty acids, were released in whey by Lactobacillus helveticus exposed to oxidative and heat stresses. This species plays an important role in cheese technology, particularly for Swiss-type cheeses and Grana cheese. Moreover, it significantly contributes to cheese ripening by means of an early autolysis and the release of enzymes during processing. Experimental evidence of the involvement of the two 2[5H]-furanones, detected by a gas chromatography-mass spectrometry/solid-phase microextraction technique, in the autolysis phenomenon has been obtained. Zymograms performed by using renaturing sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gels were used to detect the bioactivity of the supernatants containing the two furanones on fresh cells of the same strain. In addition to bands corresponding to known autolysins, new autolysins were detected concomitant with the exposure of Lactobacillus helveticus to the supernatants, which can be regarded as conditioned media (CM), and to a commercial furanone, 5-ethyl-3-hydroxy-4-methyl-2[5H]-furanone (HEMFi), having spectral data similar to those of the newly described 2[5H]-furanones. Morphological changes were observed when fresh cells were exposed to CM containing the two 2[5H]-furanones and HEMFi. The two furanones produced by Lactobacillus helveticus, which met a number of criteria to be included in cell-cell signaling molecules, have a presumptive molecular mass lower than those of already known 3[2H]-furanones having an autolytic activity and being produced by gram-negative bacteria. Moreover, they present a different chemical structure with respect to the furanones already identified as products of Lactococcus lactis subsp. cremoris or to those identified in some cheeses with Lactobacillus helveticus as a starter culture.

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