Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)


Nutrition, Dietetics, and Food Sciences

Department name when degree awarded

Nutrition and Food Sciences

Committee Chair(s)

Jeffery R. Broadbent


Jeffery R. Broadbent


Bart C. Weimer


Gregory J. Podgorski


Amino acids derived from the degradation of casein in cheese serve as precursors for the generation of key flavor compounds. Microbial degradation of tryptophan (Trp) is thought to promote formation of aromatic compounds that impart putrid fecal or unclean flavors in cheese, but pathways for their production have not been established. This study investigated tryptophan catabolism by Lactobacillus casei LC301 and LC202 and Lactobacillus helveticus CNRZ32 and LH212 cheese flavor adjuncts in carbohydrate starvation (pH 6.5, 30 or 37°C, no sugar) and cheese-like conditions (pH 5.2, 4% NaCl, 15°C, no sugar). Enzyme assays of cell-free extracts revealed both species of Lactobacillus catabolized tryptophan to indole lactic acid via indole pyruvic acid through transamination followed by dehydrogenation. Micellar electrokinetic capillary chromatography of culture supernatants showed these enzymes also catalyzed the reverse reactions, i.e., conversion of indole lactic acid to tryptophan. Tryptophan decarboxylase activity was detected in Lactobacillus cell-free extracts, but tryptamine was not detected in culture supernatants. Analysis of culture supernatants showed that tryptophan metabolism in Lactobacillus casei did not differ between the two conditions of incubation as it did in Lactobacillus helveticus LH212 and CNRZ32. Lactobacillus helveticus LH212, for example, did not catabolize Trp in carbohydrate starvation but did in cheese-like conditions. While cells of L. helveticus CNRZ32 did not catabolize Trp in either condition, they catabolized indole pyruvic acid to only Trp in carbohydrate starvation and to both Trp and indole lactic acid in cheese-like conditions. Micellar electrokinetic capillary chromatography of culture supernatants incubated under either starvation or cheese-like conditions showed Lactobacillus casei strains produced more indole lactic acid, and Lactobacillus helveticus strains favored tryptophan anabolic reactions. Based on the results obtained in this study, a putative pathway for the catabolism of tryptophan by lactobacilli in cheese is proposed.