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J Appl Microbiol. 2009 Apr;106(4):1081-92. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2672.2008.04094.x. Epub 2009 Jan 30.

Molecular source tracking of predominant lactic acid bacteria in traditional Belgian sourdoughs and their production environments.

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Department of Biochemistry, Physiology and Microbiology, Ghent University, Belgium.



To investigate the circulation of predominant sourdough lactic acid bacteria (LAB) species in the production environment of two Belgian artisan sourdough bakeries.


Isolates were collected from sourdoughs, flour, hands of the baker and air in the bakery setting and taxonomically characterized using repetitive element sequence-based PCR fingerprinting, pheS and/or 16S rRNA gene sequencing and amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP) analysis. In parallel, PCR-DGGE (denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis) analysis of V3-16S rDNA amplicons was applied to visualize the predominant bacterial population in the sourdoughs and the corresponding bakery environment (flour, hands of the baker, air and bakery equipment). Both approaches revealed that sourdoughs produced at D01 and D10 were mainly dominated by Lactobacillus spicheri and L. plantarum and by L. sanfranciscensis, respectively, and that these LAB species also circulated in the corresponding bakery environment. Furthermore, AFLP fingerprinting demonstrated that sourdough and bakery environment isolates of these species were genetically indistinguishable. For more sensitive source-tracking, SYBR Green-based real-time PCR assays were developed using species-specific primers targeting the pheS gene of L. plantarum and L. sanfranciscensis, detected in air samples from D01 and D10, respectively.


The results obtained in this study indicate that specific strains of LAB persist in artisan doughs over years and circulate in the bakery environment. Furthermore, the importance of air as a potential carrier of LAB in artisan bakery environments was demonstrated.


PheS-based real-time PCR can be used to detect, quantify and/or monitor specific LAB species (e.g. starter cultures) in sourdough and bakery environment samples.

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