Antonie van Leeuwenhoek

, Volume 70, Issue 2–4, pp 243–251 | Cite as

Lactococcus lactis and stress

  • Fabien Rallu
  • Alexandra Gruss
  • Emmanuelle Maguin


It is now generally recognized that cell growth conditions in nature are often suboptimal compared to controlled conditions provided in the laboratory. Natural stresses like starvation and acidity are generated by cell growth itself. Other stresses like temperature or osmotic shock, or oxygen, are imposed by the environment. It is now clear that defense mechanisms to withstand different stresses must be present in all organisms. The exploration of stress responses in lactic acid bacteria has just begun. Several stress response genes have been revealed through homologies with known genes in other organisms. While stress response genes appear to be highly conserved, however, their regulation may not be. Thus, search of the regulation of stress response in lactic acid bacteria may reveal new regulatory circuits. The first part of this report addresses the available information on stress response in Lactococcus lactis.

Acid stress response may be particularly important in lactic acid bacteria, whose growth and transition to stationary phase is accompanied by the production of lactic acid, which results in acidification of the media, arrest of cell multiplication, and possible cell death. The second part of this report will focus on progress made in acid stress response, particularly in L. lactis and on factors which may affect its regulation. Acid tolerance is presently under study in L. lactis. Our results with strain MG1363 show that it survives a lethal challenge at pH 4.0 if adapted briefly (5 to 15 minutes) at a pH between 4.5 and 6.5. Adaptation requires protein synthesis, indicating that acid conditions induce expression of newly synthesized genes. These results show that L. lactis possesses an inducible response to acid stress in exponential phase.

To identify possible regulatory genes involved in acid stress response, we determined low pH conditions in which MG1363 is unable to grow, and selected at 37°C for transposition insertional mutants which were able to survive. About thirty mutants resistant to low pH conditions were characterized. The interrupted genes were identified by sequence homology with known genes. One insertion interrupts ahrC, the putative regulator of arginine metabolism; possibly, increased arginine catabolism in the mutant produces metabolites which increase the pH. Several other mutations putatively map at some step in the pathway of (p)ppGpp synthesis. Our results suggest that the stringent response pathway, which is involved in starvation and stationary phase survival, may also be implicated in acid pH tolerance.

Key words

stress acid pH adaptation acid-resistant mutants 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Fabien Rallu
    • 1
  • Alexandra Gruss
    • 1
  • Emmanuelle Maguin
    • 1
  1. 1.Laboratoire de Génétique MicrobienneInstitut National de la Recherche AgronomiqueJouy en JosasFrance

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