Application of directed evolution to develop ethanol tolerant Oenococcus oeni for more efficient malolactic fermentation.Appl Microbiol Biotechnol 2018; 102(2):921-932AM
Malolactic fermentation (MLF) is an important step in winemaking, which can be notoriously unreliable due to the fastidious nature of Oenococcus oeni. This study aimed to use directed evolution (DE) to produce a more robust strain of O. oeni having the ability to withstand high ethanol concentrations. DE involves an organism mutating and potentially adapting to a high stress environment over the course of extended cultivation. A continuous culture of O. oeni was established and exposed to progressively increasing ethanol content such that after approximately 330 generations, an isolate from this culture was able to complete MLF in high ethanol content medium earlier than its parent. The ethanol tolerance of a single isolate, A90, was tested to confirm the phenotype and its fermentation performance in wine. In order to investigate the genotypic differences in the evolved strain that led to the ethanol tolerance phenotype, the relative expression of a number of known stress response genes was compared between SB3 and A90. Notably, there was increase in hsp18 expression in 20% (v/v) ethanol by both strains with A90 exhibiting a higher degree of expression. This study is the first to use directed evolution for O. oeni strain improvement and confirms that this technique can be used successfully for the development of new candidate strains for the wine industry. This study also adds to the current knowledge on the genetic basis of ethanol tolerance in this bacterium.