Physiology of Probiotic Lactic Acid


The current taxonomy of probiotic lactic acid bacteria is reviewed with special focus on the genera Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium and Enterococcus. The physiology and taxonomic position of species and strains of these genera were investigated by phenotypic and genomic methods. In total, 176 strains, including the type strains, have been included. Phenotypic methods applied were based on biochemical, enzymatical and physiological characteristics, including growth temperatures, cell wall analysis and analysis of the total soluble cytoplasmatic proteins.

Genomic methods used were pulsed field gel electrophoresis (PFGE), randomly amplified polymorphic DNA-PCR (RAPD-PCR) and DNA–DNA hybridization for bifidobacteria. In the genus Lactobacillus the following species of importance as probiotics were investigated: L. acidophilus group, L. casei group and L. reuteri/L. fermentum group. Most strains referred to as L. acidophilus in probiotic products could be identified either as L. gasseri or as L. johnsonii, both members of the L. acidophilus group. A similar situation could be shown in the L. casei group, where most of the strains named L. casei belonged to L. paracasei subspp.

A recent proposal to reject the species L. paracasei and to include this species in the restored species L. casei with a neotype strain was supported by protein analysis. Bifidobacterium spp. strains have been reported to be used for production of fermented dairy and recently of probiotic products. According to phenotypic features and confirmed by DNA–DNA hybridization most of the bifidobacteria strains from dairy origin belonged to B. animalis, although they were often declared as B. longum by the manufacturer. From the genus Enterococcus, probiotic Ec. faecium strains were investigated with regard to the vanA-mediated resistance against glycopeptides.

These unwanted resistances could be ruled out by analysis of the 39 kDa resistance protein. In conclusion, the taxonomy and physiology of probiotic lactic acid bacteria can only be understood by using polyphasic taxonomy combining morphological, biochemical and physiological characteristics with molecular-based phenotypic and genomic techniques.

Joise Angelina
Journal of Probiotics and Health
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