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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2007 Aug;73(15):4741-50. Epub 2007 Jun 8.

Population dynamics and metabolite target analysis of lactic acid bacteria during laboratory fermentations of wheat and spelt sourdoughs.

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  • 1Research Group of Industrial Microbiology and Food Biotechnology (IMDO), Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Pleinlaan 2, Brussels, Belgium.


Four laboratory sourdough fermentations, initiated with wheat or spelt flour and without the addition of a starter culture, were prepared over a period of 10 days with daily back-slopping. Samples taken at all refreshment steps were used for determination of the present microbiota. Furthermore, an extensive metabolite target analysis of more than 100 different compounds was performed through a combination of various chromatographic methods including liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. The establishment of a stable microbial ecosystem occurred through a three-phase evolution within a week, as revealed by both microbiological and metabolite analyses. Strains of Lactobacillus plantarum, Lactobacillus fermentum, Lactobacillus rossiae, Lactobacillus brevis, and Lactobacillus paraplantarum were dominating some of the sourdough ecosystems. Although the heterofermentative L. fermentum was dominating one of the wheat sourdoughs, all other sourdoughs were dominated by a combination of obligate and facultative heterofermentative taxa. Strains of homofermentative species were not retrieved in the stable sourdough ecosystems. Concentrations of sugar and amino acid metabolites hardly changed during the last days of fermentation. Besides lactic acid, ethanol, and mannitol, the production of succinic acid, erythritol, and various amino acid metabolites, such as phenyllactic acid, hydroxyphenyllactic acid, and indolelactic acid, was shown during fermentation. Physiologically, they contributed to the equilibration of the redox balance. The biphasic approach of the present study allowed us to map some of the interactions taking place during sourdough fermentation and helped us to understand the fine-tuned metabolism of lactic acid bacteria, which allows them to dominate a food ecosystem.

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