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By its numerous properties and importance in cheese technology (production of colour, flavour, bacteriocins and resistance to salt) Brevibacterium linens is a major cheese ripening bacteria. However, the genetic approach of such biological functions has been hindered, up to now, by the lack of tools necessary to realise genetic modifications in this species. Our objective was to demonstrate that it is possible to genetically modify several strains exhibiting interesting technological properties, especially the production of sulphur compounds. We worked with a phenotypically and genetically diverse collection of 11 strains. We genetically transformed several Brevi. linens with acceptable rates with plasmids classically used to transform lactic acid bacteria and other Gram+ bacteria. These results open up new prospects to investigate the most interesting Brevi. linens metabolic pathways both at the biochemical and genetic level.
Volatile sulphur compounds are major flavouring compounds in many traditional fermented foods including cheeses. These compounds are products of the catabolism of L-methionine by cheese-ripening microorganisms. The diversity of L-methionine degradation by such microorganisms, however, remains to be characterized. The objective of this work was to compare the capacities to produce volatile sulphur compounds by five yeasts, Geotrichum candidum, Yarrowia lipolytica, Kluyveromyces lactis, Debaryomyces hansenii, Saccharomyces cerevisiae and five bacteria, Brevibacterium linens, Corynebacterium glutamicum, Arthrobacter sp., Micrococcus luteus and Staphylococcus equorum of technological interest for cheese-ripening. The ability of whole cells of these microorganisms to generate volatile sulphur compounds from L-methionine was compared. The microorganisms produced a wide spectrum of sulphur compounds including methanethiol, dimethylsulfide, dimethyldisulfide, dimethyltrisulfide and also S-methylthioesters, which varied in amount and type according to strain. Most of the yeasts produced methanethiol, dimethylsulfide, dimethyldisulfide and dimethyltrisulfide but did not produce S-methylthioesters, apart from G. candidum that produced S-methyl thioacetate. Bacteria, especially Arth. sp. and Brevi. linens, produced the highest amounts and the greatest variety of volatile sulphur compounds including methanethiol, sulfides and S-methylthioesters, e.g. S-methyl thioacetate, S-methyl thiobutyrate, S-methyl thiopropionate and S-methyl thioisovalerate. Cell-free extracts of all the yeasts and bacteria were examined for the activity of enzymes possibly involved in L-methionine catabolism, i.e. L-methionine demethiolase, L-methionine aminotransferase and L-methionine deaminase. They all possessed L-methionine demethiolase activity, while some (K. lactis, Deb. hansenii, Arth. sp., Staph. equorum) were deficient in L-methionine aminotransferase, and none produced L-methionine deaminase. The catabolism of L-methionine in these microorganisms is discussed.
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