Respiratory Physiology of Lactococcus lactis in Chemostat Cultures and Its Effect on Cellular Robustness in Frozen and Freeze-Dried Starter Cultures
Journal article, 2020

In this study, we used chemostat cultures to analyze the quantitative effects of the specific growth rate and respiration on the metabolism in Lactococcus lactis CHCC2862 and on the downstream robustness of cells after freezing or freeze-drying. Under anaerobic conditions, metabolism remained homofermentative, although biomass yields varied with the dilution rate (D). In contrast, metabolism shifted with the dilution rate under respiration-permissive conditions. At D = 0.1 h-1, no lactate was produced, while lactate formation increased with higher dilution rates. Thus, a clear metabolic shift was observed, from flavor-forming respiratory metabolism at low specific growth rates to mixed-acid respiro-fermentative metabolism at higher specific growth rates. Quantitative analysis of the respiratory activity, lactose uptake rate, and metabolite production rates showed that aerobic acetoin formation provided most of the NADH consumed in respiration. Moreover, the maintenance-associated lactose consumption under respiration-permissive conditions was only 10% of the anaerobic value, either due to higher respiratory yield of ATP on consumed lactose or due to lower maintenance-related ATP demand. The cultivation conditions also affected the quality of the starter cultures produced. Cells harvested under respiration-permissive conditions at D = 0.1 h-1 were less robust after freeze-drying and had lower acidification activity for subsequent milk acidification, whereas respiration-permissive conditions at the higher dilution rates led to robust cells that performed equally well or better than anaerobic cells.IMPORTANCELactococcus lactis is used in large quantities by the food and biotechnology industries. L. lactis can use oxygen for respiration if heme is supplied in the growth medium. This has been extensively studied in batch cultures using various mutants, but quantitative studies of how the cell growth affects respiratory metabolism, energetics, and cell quality are surprisingly scarce. Our results demonstrate that the respiratory metabolism of L. lactis is remarkably flexible and can be modulated by controlling the specific growth rate. We also link the physiological state of cells during cultivation to the quality of frozen or freeze-dried cells, which is relevant to the industry that may lack understanding of such relationships. This study extends our knowledge of respiratory metabolism in L. lactis and its impact on frozen and freeze-dried starter culture products, and it illustrates the influence of cultivation conditions and microbial physiology on the quality of starter cultures.

lactic acid bacteria

continuous cultures

acidification activity

microbial physiology

aerobic growth

respiration-permissive conditions


Anna Johanson

Chalmers, Biology and Biological Engineering, Industrial Biotechnology

Chr. Hansen

Anisha Goel

Chr. Hansen

Lisbeth Olsson

Chalmers, Biology and Biological Engineering, Industrial Biotechnology

Carl Johan Franzén

Chalmers, Biology and Biological Engineering, Industrial Biotechnology

Applied and Environmental Microbiology

0099-2240 (ISSN) 1098-5336 (eISSN)

Vol. 86 6 e02785

Subject Categories

Cell Biology


Medical Biotechnology (with a focus on Cell Biology (including Stem Cell Biology), Molecular Biology, Microbiology, Biochemistry or Biopharmacy)





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