Optimal growth of Lactobacillus casei in a Cheddar cheese ripening model system requires exogenous fatty acids.J Dairy Sci. 2012 Apr; 95(4):1680-9.JD
Flavor development in ripening Cheddar cheese depends on complex microbial and biochemical processes that are difficult to study in natural cheese. Thus, our group has developed Cheddar cheese extract (CCE) as a model system to study these processes. In previous work, we found that CCE supported growth of Lactobacillus casei, one of the most prominent nonstarter lactic acid bacteria (NSLAB) species found in ripening Cheddar cheese, to a final cell density of 10(8) cfu/mL at 37°C. However, when similar growth experiments were performed at 8°C in CCE derived from 4-mo-old cheese (4mCCE), the final cell densities obtained were only about 10(6) cfu/mL, which is at the lower end of the range of the NSLAB population expected in ripening Cheddar cheese. Here, we report that addition of Tween 80 to CCE resulted in a significant increase in the final cell density of L. casei during growth at 8°C and produced concomitant changes in cytoplasmic membrane fatty acid (CMFA) composition. Although the effect was not as dramatic, addition of milk fat or a monoacylglycerol (MAG) mixture based on the MAG profile of milk fat to 4mCCE also led to an increased final cell density of L. casei in CCE at 8°C and changes in CMFA composition. These observations suggest that optimal growth of L. casei in CCE at low temperature requires supplementation with a source of fatty acids (FA). We hypothesize that L. casei incorporates environmental FA into its CMFA, thereby reducing its energy requirement for growth. The exogenous FA may then be modified or supplemented with FA from de novo synthesis to arrive at a CMFA composition that yields the functionality (i.e., viscosity) required for growth in specific conditions. Additional studies utilizing the CCE model to investigate microbial contributions to cheese ripening should be conducted in CCE supplemented with 1% milk fat.