Tryptophan catabolism in Brevibacterium linens as a potential cheese flavor adjunct

M. Ummadi, Bart C Weimer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Attempts to develop a desirable reduced fat Cheddar cheese are impeded by a propensity for flavor defects such as meaty-brothy, putrid, fecal, and unclean off-flavors in these products. Recent studies suggest aromatic amino acid catabolism of starter, adjunct, and nonstarter lactic acid bacteria significantly impact off-flavor development. The objective of this study was to delineate pathways for catabolism of tryptophan (Trp) in Brevibacterium linens, a cheese flavor adjunct, and to determine the potential for this organism to contribute to this defect. Growth and production of aromatic compounds from Trp by B. linens BL2 were compared in two incubated conditions (laboratory and a cheese-like environment). A chemically defined medium was used to determine the cellular enzymes and metabolites involved in Trp catabolism. Trp was converted to kynurenine, anthranilic acid, and three unknown compounds in laboratory conditions. The accumulation of other unknown compounds in the culture supernatant in laboratory conditions indicated that B. linens BL2 degraded Trp by various routes. Up to 65% of Trp was converted to anthranilic acid via the anthranilic acid pathway. To assess this potential before cheese making, the cells were incubated in cheese-like conditions (15°C, pH 5.2, no sugar source, 4% NaCl). Trp was not utilized by BL2 incubated in this condition. Enzyme studies using cell-free extracts of cells incubated in laboratory conditions and assayed at optimal and nonoptimal enzyme assay conditions revealed Trp transaminase (EC was active before enzymes of the anthranilic acid pathway were detected. The products of Trp transaminase activity were not, however, found in the culture supernatant, indicating these intermediates were not exported nor accumulated by the cells. Enzymes assayed in nonoptimal conditions had considerably lower enzyme activities than found in laboratory incubation conditions. Based on these results, we hypothesize that these enzymes are not likely to be involved in the formation of compounds associated with off-flavors in Cheddar cheese.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1773-1782
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Anthranilic acid
  • Cheddar cheese flavor
  • Tryptophan catabolites

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Food Science
  • veterinary(all)


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