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J Appl Microbiol. 2009 Oct;107(4):1319-29. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2672.2009.04311.x. Epub 2009 Apr 17.

Investigating the relationship between raw milk bacterial composition, as described by intergenic transcribed spacer-PCR fingerprinting, and pasture altitude.

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Laboratorio Qualità dei Prodotti, Istituto Sperimentale Italiano Lazzaro Spallanzani, via Einstein, Località Cascina Codazza, Lodi 26900, Italy.



To assess the bacterial biodiversity level in bovine raw milk used to produce Fontina, a Protected Designation of Origin cheese manufactured at high-altitude pastures and in valleys of Valle d'Aosta region (North-western Italian Alps) without any starters. To study the relation between microbial composition and pasture altitude, in order to distinguish high-altitude milk against valley and lowland milk.


The microflora from milks sampled at different alpine pasture, valley and lowland farms were fingerprinted by PCR of the 16S-23S intergenic transcribed spacers (ITS-PCR). The resulting band patterns were analysed by generalized multivariate statistical techniques to handle discrete (band presence-absence) and continuous (altitude) information. The fingerprints featured numerous bands and marked variability indicating complex, differentiated bacterial communities. Alpine pasture milks were distinguished from lowland ones by cluster analysis, while this technique less clearly discriminated alpine pasture and valley samples. Generalized principal component analysis and clustering-after-ordination enabled a more effective distinction of alpine pasture, valley and lowland samples.


Alpine raw milks for Fontina production contain highly diverse bacterial communities, the composition of which is related to the altitude of the pasture where milk was produced.


This research may provide analytical support to the important issue represented by the authentication of the geographical origin of alpine milk productions.

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