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The critical role of urease in yogurt fermentation with various combinations of Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactobacillus delbrueckii ssp. bulgaricus

Yamauchi, R., Maguin, E., Horiuchi, H., Hosokawa, M., Sasaki, Y.
Journal of dairy science 2019 v.102 no.2 pp. 1033-1043
Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus, Streptococcus thermophilus, acidification, ammonia, ammonium nitrogen, carbon dioxide, coculture, fermentation, metabolites, mutants, urease, yogurt
The protocooperation between Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactobacillus delbrueckii ssp. bulgaricus relies on metabolite exchanges that accelerate acidification during yogurt fermentation. Conflicting results have been obtained in terms of the effect of the Strep. thermophilus urease and the NH3 and CO2 that it generates on the rate of acidification in yogurt fermentation. It is difficult to perform a systematic study of the effects of urease on protocooperation because it is necessary to distinguish among the direct, indirect, and strain-specific effects resulting from the combination of the strains of both species. To evaluate the direct effects of urease on protocooperation, we generated 3 urease-deficient mutants (ΔureC) of fast- and slow-acidifying Strep. thermophilus strains and observed the effects of NH3 or CO2 supplementation on acidification by the ΔureC strains. Further, we examined 5 combinations of 3 urease-deficient ΔureC strains with 2 CO2-responsive or CO2-unresponsive strains of L. bulgaricus. Urease deficiency induced a shortage of ammonia nitrogen and CO2 for the fast- and slow-acidifying Strep. thermophilus and for the CO2-responsive L. bulgaricus, respectively. Notably, the shortage of ammonia nitrogen had more severe effects than that of CO2 on yogurt fermentation, even if coculture with L. bulgaricus masked the effect of urease deficiency. Our work established (1) that urease deficiency inhibits the fermentative acceleration of protocooperation regardless of the Strep. thermophilus and L. bulgaricus strain combinations, and (2) that urease is an essential factor for effective yogurt acidification.