Gene-based strain selection for cheese starter cultures

Gene-based strain selection for cheese starter cultures

Consumers’ awareness of healthy diet choices has triggered a trend towards low fat and low salt cheeses. One of the key parameters to acceptability and thus the success of these ‘low’ varieties is the flavour quality.

For optimising cheese quality, detailed knowledge of the formation of protein/amino acid derived flavours by starter cultures is essential.

Recent research carried out at NIZO in collaboration with TI Food and Nutrition has revealed that the diversity of flavour profiles generated in cheese by a set of 18 different LAB strains was extremely high. In the study, the flavour compounds formed could be linked to the presence or absence of specific genes in each strain by comparing the genomes of these strains with advanced bioinformatic tools (gene-trait matching).

The involvement of the genes in the formation of specific flavour compounds was also confirmed by gene deletion studies. Thus, the presence or absence of specific genes can be tested at the DNA level and serves as predictive tool for the ability of a strain to generate specific flavour profiles. This speeds up screening, characterisation and selection of starter cultures with novel flavour forming characteristics in cheese.

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