Back to Shapiro: supported by cheese making study (Evolution)

by David Turell @, Saturday, October 17, 2020, 20:44 (206 days ago) @ dhw

The involved fungi can cause the bacteria to modify:

"Many microbes produce airborne chemical compounds called volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, as they interact with their environment. A widely recognized microbial VOC is geosmin, which is emitted by soil microbes and can often be smelled after a heavy rain in forests. As bacteria and fungi grow on ripening cheeses, they secrete enzymes that break down amino acids to produce acids, alcohols, aldehydes, amines, and various sulfur compounds, while other enzymes break down fatty acids to produce esters, methyl ketones, and secondary alcohols. All of those biological products contribute to the flavor and aroma of cheese and they are the reason why Camembert, Blue cheese and Limburger have their signature smells.

"The Tufts researchers found that VOCs don't just contribute to the sensory experience of cheese, but also provide a way for fungi to communicate with and "feed" bacteria in the cheese microbiome. By pairing 16 different common cheese bacteria with 5 common cheese rind fungi, the researchers found that the fungi caused responses in the bacteria ranging from strong stimulation to strong inhibition. One bacteria species, Vibrio casei, responded by growing rapidly in the presence of VOCs emitted by all five of the fungi. Other bacteria, such as Psychrobacter, only grew in response to one of the fungi (Galactomyces), and two common cheese bacteria decreased significantly in number when exposed to VOCs produced by Galactomyces.

"The researchers found that the VOCs altered the expression of many genes in the bacteria, including genes that affect the way they metabolize nutrients. One metabolic mechanism that was enhanced, called the glyoxylate shunt, allows the bacteria to utilize more simple compounds as "food" when more complex sources such as glucose are unavailable. In effect, they enabled the bacteria to better "eat" some of the VOCs and use them as sources for energy and growth. (my bold)

"'The bacteria are able to actually eat what we perceive as smells," said Casey Cosetta, post-doctoral scholar in the department of biology at Tufts University and first author of the study. "That's important because the cheese itself provides little in the way of easily metabolized sugars such as glucose. With VOCs, the fungi are really providing a useful assist to the bacteria to help them thrive.'"

Comment: Note the bold. I would state it differently. The fungi stimulated the bacteria to change gene expression, as Shapiro would accept.

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