Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)


Nutrition, Dietetics, and Food Sciences


Bart C. Weimer


Deloy G. Hendricks


Paul A. Savello


Lactic acid bacteria have been reported to be used as a health adjunct in food for u many years. However, these health benefits have not been proven. and how these bacteria pass through the digestion process and remain viable in the human intestinal tract is still not clear. The aim of this work was to isolate mutants from Lactobacillus acidophilus or Bifidobacterium bifidum that could tolerate the conditions of the digestion process (low pH and bile conduction) and to characterize these isolated mutants.

Acid- and bile-tolerant mutants of L. acidophilus were isolated from parental strains successfully using natural selection techniques. These mutants survived and grew at conditions of pH 3.5 with 0.2% mixed bile salts added. After the selection, phenotypic characterization was identified to further clarify desirable traits for use as probiotic adjuncts in foods. These phenotypic characteristics included protease, aminopeptidase, ß-galactosidase, and bile salt hydrolase activity. Based on different protease, aminopeptidase, and ß-galactosidase activity, selected acid- and bile-tolerant mutants contained different growth characteristics compared with their parents. All the isolates tested showed different bile salt hydrolase activity, and this activity was not strain and medium dependent.

Plasmid profiles and fatty acid analysis were conducted to provide more information of these acid/bile tolerant isolates and whether or not they were mutants from their parent strains rather than only adapted variants. Results showed the acid-/bile-tolerant isolates contained different plasmid profiles and cell wall fatty acids compared with their parents, which indicated these isolates were mutants. Protein expression by two-dimensional gel electrophoresis showed different protein expression patterns between acid- and bile-tolerant mutants and their parents. fm1her suggesting these isolates were mutants. We observed the protein production in parent strains decreased as the pH decreased. and protein expression in mutants remained the same as pH decreased.

Two of the proposed health benefits of probiotic bacteria are anticholesterol activity and antimicrobial activity. These were evaluated using selected acid- and bile-tolerant mutants. Results showed no decrease of cholesterol in the test medium during bacterial growth. The observed antimicrobial activity was due to the presence of active cells. and this may relate to the acid production during cell growth and not to the production of antimicrobial substances.

We concluded that the acid-/bile-tolerant isolates were mutants, and they survived and grew better in harsh environments compared with their parent strains. These mutants may be useful as a food adjunct in the future, but further study is needed to establish their use and possible probiotic benefits.