We have shown that the ability to produce trehalose is widespread within the genus Propionibacterium. Eighteen strains isolated from dairy sources were screened for trehalose synthesis; the effect of environmental conditions on trehalose production was evaluated in Propionibacterium freudenreichii ssp. shermanii NIZO B365, a strain that accumulated high amounts of this disaccharide. Lactose was the best carbohydrate source for trehalose production, whereas lactate, the substrate that led to the highest specific growth rate, was a poor precursor. Trehalose was consumed after exhaustion of the carbon source in the medium, suggesting its role as a reserve compound. The production of trehalose was not affected by lowering the growth temperature from 30 to 20 °C. On the other hand, the maximum trehalose accumulation increased from about 200 to 400 mg of trehalose/g of cell protein upon decreasing the pH from 7.0 to 4.7, by increasing the concentration of NaCl to 2% (w/v), or during growth under aerobic conditions (50% air saturation, 24 µM O2, pH 7.0). In the absence of NaCl, trehalose accumulated concomitantly with growth, but an increase in salinity triggered a high trehalose production already in the early exponential growth phase. The data provide evidence for a dual function of trehalose as a reserve compound and as a stress-response metabolite. Moreover, P. freudenreichii ssp. shermanii NIZO B365 was able to produce high levels of trehalose in skim milk, which is promising for the implementation of fermented dairy products.
- Trehalose production