• Meta-analysis of cheese microbiomes highlights contributions to multiple aspects of quality

      Walsh, Aaron M.; Macori, Guerrino; Kilcawley, Kieran N.; Cotter, Paul D.; Science Foundation Ireland; European Commission; Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine; SFI/12/RC/2273P1; SFI/12/RC/2273P2; 818368; et al. (Springer Science and Business Media LLC, 2020-08-13)
      A detailed understanding of the cheese microbiome is key to the optimization of flavour, appearance, quality and safety. Accordingly, we conducted a high-resolution meta-analysis of cheese microbiomes and corresponding volatilomes. Using 77 new samples from 55 artisanal cheeses from 27 Irish producers combined with 107 publicly available cheese metagenomes, we recovered 328 metagenome-assembled genomes, including 47 putative new species that could influence taste or colour through the secretion of volatiles or biosynthesis of pigments. Additionally, from a subset of samples, we found that differences in the abundances of strains corresponded with levels of volatiles. Genes encoding bacteriocins and other antimicrobials, such as pseudoalterin, were common, potentially contributing to the control of undesirable microorganisms. Although antibiotic-resistance genes were detected, evidence suggested they are not of major concern with respect to dissemination to other microbiomes. Phages, a potential cause of fermentation failure, were abundant and evidence for phage-mediated gene transfer was detected. The anti-phage defence mechanism CRISPR was widespread and analysis thereof, and of anti-CRISPR proteins, revealed a complex interaction between phages and bacteria. Overall, our results provide new and substantial technological and ecological insights into the cheese microbiome that can be applied to further improve cheese production.