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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2001 Apr;67(4):1657-62.

Growth and arginine metabolism of the wine lactic acid bacteria Lactobacillus buchneri and Oenococcus oeni at different pH values and arginine concentrations.

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Institute of Molecular BioSciences, Tennent Dr., PB11222, Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand.


During malolactic fermentation (MLF) in grape must and wine, heterofermentative lactic acid bacteria may degrade arginine, leading to the formation of ammonia and citrulline, among other substances. This is of concern because ammonia increases the pH and thus the risk of growth by spoilage bacteria, and citrulline is a precursor to the formation of carcinogenic ethyl carbamate (EC). Arginine metabolism and growth of Lactobacillus buchneri CUC-3 and Oenococcus oeni strains MCW and Lo111 in wine were investigated. In contrast to L. buchneri CUC-3, both oenococci required a higher minimum pH for arginine degradation, and arginine utilization was delayed relative to the degradation of malic acid, the main aim of MLF. This allows the control of pH increase and citrulline formation from arginine metabolism by carrying out MLF with pure oenococcal cultures and inhibiting cell metabolism after malic acid depletion. MLF by arginine-degrading lactobacilli should be discouraged because arginine degradation may lead to the enhanced formation of acids from sugar degradation. A linear relationship was found between arginine degradation and citrulline excretion rates. From this data, strain-specific arginine-to-citrulline conversion ratios were calculated that ranged between 2.2 and 3.9% (wt/wt), and these ratios can be used to estimate the contribution of citrulline to the EC precursor pool from a given amount of initial arginine. Increasing arginine concentrations led to higher rates of growth of L. buchneri CUC-3 but did not increase the growth yield of either oenococcus. These results suggest the use of non-arginine-degrading oenococci for inducing MLF.

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