Microbial interactions shape cheese flavour formation

Chrats Melkonian*, Francisco Zorrilla, Inge Kjærbølling, Sonja Blasche, Daniel Machado, Mette Junge, Kim Ib Sørensen, Lene Tranberg Andersen, Kiran R. Patil, Ahmad A. Zeidan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Cheese fermentation and flavour formation are the result of complex biochemical reactions driven by the activity of multiple microorganisms. Here, we studied the roles of microbial interactions in flavour formation in a year-long Cheddar cheese making process, using a commercial starter culture containing Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactococcus strains. By using an experimental strategy whereby certain strains were left out from the starter culture, we show that S. thermophilus has a crucial role in boosting Lactococcus growth and shaping flavour compound profile. Controlled milk fermentations with systematic exclusion of single Lactococcus strains, combined with genomics, genome-scale metabolic modelling, and metatranscriptomics, indicated that S. thermophilus proteolytic activity relieves nitrogen limitation for Lactococcus and boosts de novo nucleotide biosynthesis. While S. thermophilus had large contribution to the flavour profile, Lactococcus cremoris also played a role by limiting diacetyl and acetoin formation, which otherwise results in an off-flavour when in excess. This off-flavour control could be attributed to the metabolic re-routing of citrate by L. cremoris from diacetyl and acetoin towards α-ketoglutarate. Further, closely related Lactococcus lactis strains exhibited different interaction patterns with S. thermophilus, highlighting the significance of strain specificity in cheese making. Our results highlight the crucial roles of competitive and cooperative microbial interactions in shaping cheese flavour profile.

Original languageEnglish
Article number8348
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023


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