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The recent decades have witnessed great advances in dairy microbiology due to the adaptation and use of a vast array of culture-independent microbial techniques (i.e., DGGE, TGGE, FISH, SSCP, ARISA, RISA, etc.) in dairy fermentations. These techniques have largely been adapted from those developed for studying more complex microbial ecosystems such as soil and aquatic environments. These methods have allowed a deeper evaluation of the microbial diversity present in traditional dairy fermentations and have become valuable tools for tracking the evolution of starter and adjunct cultures during manufacturing and ripening of dairy products. Previously undetected species have been seen to be predominant in some traditional dairy fermented products, and some of them are being evaluated as more adequate and specific acidification and/or maturing agents. At the same time, new insights have been also gained into the molecular basis of lactic acid bacteria (LAB) traits with industrial significance, which are of enormous importance for to their current application in large-scale modern fermentations. Continuing research into particular properties of LAB such as catabolism of milk proteins, sugars and citrate, production of antimicrobial compounds, characterization of dairy phages and phage-resistance systems, etc., have increased the scientific understanding of the physiology and genetics of LAB species. This has been indispensable for the manipulation and rerouting of the metabolism of LAB species to create improved new strains for a reliable and more efficient use of LAB cultures, in both traditional and new fermentations; as well as breaking important new ground in novel biotechnological and biomedical applications. There is no doubt that the arrival of the genomic era in 1995, with the sequencing and analysis of the whole genome of the bacterium Haemophylus influenzae, opened up a completely new approach to the study of the anabolic and catabolic abilities of microorganisms and their relationship with environmental and technological variables (temperature, pH, acidity, salt concentration, temporal and spatial relationships with other bacteria, eukaryotic cells, etc.). At present, more than 20 LAB genomes have been completely sequenced and analysed, including cheese and yoghurt starter strains and strains of representative intestinal LAB species, which have been proposed, or are frequently used as probiotics. Genomic, proteomic, metabolomic, and related techniques will undoubtedly revolutionize in the near future our understanding of the underlying molecular basis of the biological properties of LAB. This in turn will help to individually understand these microorganisms, allowing a rational use in food and feed fermentations, new biotechnological applications, and a deeper understanding of the mechanisms of probiotic interactions. This book addresses recent molecular results from dairy microbiology, in particular those related to basic and applied aspects of lactic acid bacteria. The book has a wide coverage of the latest issues on the physiology, genetics and biotechnology of this important group of bacteria, which makes it an invaluable tool for students, microbiology teachers, academic workers, dairy researchers and industrial scientists.
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