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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2008 Apr;74(8):2414-23. doi: 10.1128/AEM.02771-07. Epub 2008 Feb 29.

Taxonomic structure and stability of the bacterial community in belgian sourdough ecosystems as assessed by culture and population fingerprinting.

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Laboratory of Microbiology, Ghent University, K.L. Ledeganckstraat 35, 9000 Ghent, Belgium.


A total of 39 traditional sourdoughs were sampled at 11 bakeries located throughout Belgium which were visited twice with a 1-year interval. The taxonomic structure and stability of the bacterial communities occurring in these traditional sourdoughs were assessed using both culture-dependent and culture-independent methods. A total of 1,194 potential lactic acid bacterium (LAB) isolates were tentatively grouped and identified by repetitive element sequence-based PCR, followed by sequence-based identification using 16S rRNA and pheS genes from a selection of genotypically unique LAB isolates. In parallel, all samples were analyzed by denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) of V3-16S rRNA gene amplicons. In addition, extensive metabolite target analysis of more than 100 different compounds was performed. Both culturing and DGGE analysis showed that the species Lactobacillus sanfranciscensis, Lactobacillus paralimentarius, Lactobacillus plantarum, and Lactobacillus pontis dominated the LAB population of Belgian type I sourdoughs. In addition, DGGE band sequence analysis demonstrated the presence of Acetobacter sp. and a member of the Erwinia/Enterobacter/Pantoea group in some samples. Overall, the culture-dependent and culture-independent approaches each exhibited intrinsic limitations in assessing bacterial LAB diversity in Belgian sourdoughs. Irrespective of the LAB biodiversity, a large majority of the sugar and amino acid metabolites were detected in all sourdough samples. Principal component-based analysis of biodiversity and metabolic data revealed only little variation among the two samples of the sourdoughs produced at the same bakery. The rare cases of instability observed could generally be linked with variations in technological parameters or differences in detection capacity between culture-dependent and culture-independent approaches. Within a sampling interval of 1 year, this study reinforces previous observations that the bakery environment rather than the type or batch of flour largely determines the development of a stable LAB population in sourdoughs.

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