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Food Microbiol. 2009 Oct;26(7):666-75. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2009 Jul 18.

Biodiversity, ecological determinants, and metabolic exploitation of sourdough microbiota.

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Research Group of Industrial Microbiology and Food Biotechnology, Faculty of Sciences and Bio-engineering Sciences, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Brussels, Belgium.


Sourdough is a microbial ecosystem of lactic acid bacteria (LAB) and yeasts in a matrix of mainly cereal flour and water. Culture-dependent and culture-independent microbiological analysis together with metabolite target analyses of different sourdoughs enabled to understand this complex fermentation process. It is difficult to link the species diversity of the sourdough microbiota with the (geographical) type of sourdough and the flour used, although the type and quality of the latter is the main source of autochthonous LAB in spontaneous sourdough fermentations and plays a key role in establishing stable microbial consortia within a short time. Carbohydrate fermentation targeted towards maltose catabolism, the use of external alternative electron acceptors, amino acid transamination reactions, and/or the arginine deiminase pathway are metabolic activities that favour energy production, cofactor (re)cycling, and/or tolerance towards acid stress, and hence contribute to the competitiveness and dominance of certain species of LAB found in sourdoughs. Also, microbial interactions play an important role. The availability of genome sequences for several LAB species that are of importance in sourdough as well as technological advances in the fields of functional genomics, transcriptomics, and proteomics enable new approaches to study sourdough fermentations beyond the single species level and will allow an integral analysis of the metabolic activities and interactions taking place in sourdough. Finally, the implementation of selected starter cultures in sourdough technology is of pivotal importance for the industrial production of sourdoughs to be used as flavour carrier, texture-improving, or health-promoting dough ingredient.

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