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Food Microbiol. 2012 Jun;30(2):432-7. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2011 Dec 26.

Rapid discrimination of Bifidobacterium animalis subspecies by matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization-time of flight mass spectrometry.

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Department of Viticulture and Enology, University of California, Davis, CA 95616, USA.


Currently, the species Bifidobacterium animalis consists of two subspecies, B. animalis subsp. lactis and B. animalis subsp. animalis. Among these two subspecies, B. animalis subsp. lactis is especially important because it is widely used in the manufacture of probiotic dairy products. The application of these microbes in the food industry demands fast, accurate and low cost methods to differentiate between species and strains. Although various genotypic methods have been employed to discriminate between these two subspecies, they are not easily adapted for rapid identification in the industry. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the use of matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization-time of flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOF MS) to differentiate between the two subspecies of B. animalis, and for discrimination at strain level. We identified twenty-three strains of B. animalis at subspecies and strain level by genotypic methods and by proteomics using MALDI-TOF MS. The proteomics identification by MALDI-TOF was nearly identical to that obtained by genotypic identification using comparison of tuf and atpD gene sequences, and single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), insertions, and deletions (INDELs). We identified four protein markers, L1, L2, A1, and A2, which are useful for discriminating between both subspecies. Proteomics identification using MALDI-TOF MS was therefore an accurate method for discriminating and identifying these bacteria. Given the speed in which this method is achieved (~20 min including sample preparation), MALDI-TOF MS is promising as a tool for rapid discrimination of starter cultures and probiotics.

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