About this Research Topic
Lactobacillus helveticus belongs to a group of organisms collectively known as lactic acid bacteria (LAB). This organism has a Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) status and displays a number of features, such proteolytic, peptidolytic and autolytic activities, that make it particularly suitable for application in the dairy sector. Lactobacillus helveticus is traditionally used in the manufacture of Swiss-type cheeses and long-ripened Italian cheeses such as Emmental, Gruyere, Grana Padano and Parmigiano Reggiano. In particular, L. helveticus is the prevalent species recovered from natural lactic starter cultures used for the production of typical Italian cheese. This organism is gaining also importance as health-promoting culture in probiotic and nutraceutic food products. Lactobacillus helveticus has the potential to produce bioactive peptides or bacteriocins, and exert synbiotic effect when associated with prebiotics in fermented dairy products. The growing use of L. helveticus as starter culture is increasing the interest in studying bacteriophage resistance in this species. Given the commercial importance of the species, the genome of L. helveticus was recently sequenced to completion and compared with other genomically characterized lactobacilli. Remarkably, sequence analysis suggested that the difference between the dairy and gut LAB species is caused by a relatively small but highly specific gene set. The availability of the complete genome sequence of L. helveticus has revealed a large repertoire of genes with industrial potential, including those responsible for key metabolic functions that may contribute to cheese flavor development, and those involved in health-promoting properties, demonstrating the therapeutic value of this species. Lactobacillus helveticus can therefore be considered as a multifunctional LAB with increasing importance in the food industry. This special topic aims to review the current knowledge on the technological, probiotic and functional properties of L. helveticus. Great attention will be paid to the most important application to food (especially dairy products) of this organism.
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