In this study, we have investigated the cheese starter culture as a microbial community through a question: can the metabolic behaviour of a co-culture be explained by the characterized individual organism that constituted the co-culture? To address this question, the dairy-origin lactic acid bacteria Lactococcus lactis subsp. cremoris, Lactococcus lactis subsp. lactis, Streptococcus thermophilus and Leuconostoc mesenteroides, commonly used in cheese starter cultures, were grown in pure and four different co-cultures. We used a dynamic metabolic modelling approach based on the integration of the genome-scale metabolic networks of the involved organisms to simulate the co-cultures. The strain-specific kinetic parameters of dynamic models were estimated using the pure culture experiments and they were subsequently applied to co-culture models. Biomass, carbon source, lactic acid and most of the amino acid concentration profiles simulated by the co-culture models fit closely to the experimental results and the co-culture models explained the mechanisms behind the dynamic microbial abundance. We then applied the co-culture models to estimate further information on the co-cultures that could not be obtained by the experimental method used. This includes estimation of the profile of various metabolites in the co-culture medium such as flavour compounds produced and the individual organism level metabolic exchange flux profiles, which revealed the potential metabolic interactions between organisms in the co-cultures.
- co-culture metabolic modelling
- genome-scale metabolic network
- lactic acid bacteria
- starter cultures