Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Nutrition, Dietetics, and Food Sciences

Department name when degree awarded

Nutrition and Food Sciences

Committee Chair(s)

Rodney J. Brown


Rodney J. Brown


Don McMahon


Charlotte Brennand


The proteolytic system of Lactococcus lactis starter cultures influences both flavor and the characteristic body and texture of cheese. The ability to further understand and control how different components of this proteolytic system work together to hydrolyze milk proteins would be of immense importance to the dairy industry.

The goal of this research was to characterize Lactococcus lactis subsp. lactis starter bacteria with varying prt operon compositions by proteinase specificity, aminopeptidase and lipase activities, growth, and influence on cheese flavor. By using a cheese slurry system, a statistical model to predict milk protein hydrolysis patterns was developed.

Lactococcus lactis subsp. lactis C20 has five plasmids of 55 (pJK550), 48 (pJK480), 43 (pJK430), 3.7 (pJK037), and 2.1 (pJK021) kilo bases. Two of these plasmids (pJK550 and pJK430) are necessary for full proteolytic capability, i.e., clotting milk in 16 h at 20°C. Plasmid pJK550 codes for a proteinase that catalyses the first step in casein degradation. Plasmid pJK430 codes for an oligopeptide transport system, which further transports peptides across the membrane for bacterial metabolism. Strains were constructed containing twelve different combinations of proteolytic phenotypes, such as Lac+PrtP+Opp+, Lac+PrtP+Opp-, Lac+PrtP-Opp+, Lac+Prt-Opp-, Lac-PrtP+Opp+, Lac-PrtP+Opp-, Lac-Prt-Opp+, and Lac-Prt-Opp-. The proteinase specificities of these strains toward milk proteins were dependent on the genotypes present. Genetically all strains showed a P1-type proteinase. Enzymatically C20 had group g proteinase specificity, whereas the rest of the strains containing the proteinase gene showed mixed group specificity. a a-Casein was only slightly hydrolyzed by all strains. B-Casein had a variable pattern, as did mixed casein and milk. K-Casein hydrolysis showed similar degradation patterns in all strains except CB06, which varied in its profile from the other strains.

Sensory evaluation showed that culture had a significant effect on rancidity but not on acidity or bitterness. It also showed that the proteolytic system was associated with lipase activity in these strains.

A statistical prediction model was developed that allowed strains to be classified according to their amino acid hydrolysis patterns. Mixed casein solution proved to be the best substrate for this analysis. Relationships among strains were seen more easily with canonical analysis and distance tables than by looking only at amino acid hydrolysis patterns.