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by Curtis Phillips | February 26, 2014 | 11:20 AM

Compared to other lactic acid bacteria, Oenococcus oeni has a fairly stripped-down genome. This makes it an interesting research subject in it's own right, but the fact that this particular species is the one that conducts malolactic fermentation (MLF) for almost all red wines, in addition to some white and sparkling wines, makes O. oeni crucial to the wine industry. However in the US, the wine industry is much smaller than the dairy-product, cured-meat, and pickle industries. This means that O. oeni research generally has to be slipstreamed into research on other lactic acid bacteria. Since the conditions in wine are harsh from a bacteria's point of view, and tend to be different than in the production of cheese or salami, simple genomic sequencing doesn't do that great a job of predicting which proteins the bateria will make during MLF in wine.

Fortunately a team of Italian and Spanish researchers have been working on mapping proteins produced (the proteome) of O. oeni. The research was published in Open Biology as "A partial proteome reference map of the wine lactic acid bacterium Oenococcus oeni ATCC BAA-1163."

This research seems like a good beginning, but fairly preliminary. I would remind non-microbiologists that a lot of work that remains to be done before we can really say that, "Scientists Figure Out How Microbes Make Wine Good."


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