Microbial Polymerization Activity

Many microorganisms have been reported to produce exopolysaccharides (EPS) in the form of either capsules or slime secreted into the extracellular environment. LAB have been reported to be involved in a diverse range of fermentation processes. Some LAB are reported to be capable of producing EPS, which would naturally make them potential candidates for industrial use because they are natural food microorganisms. Two classes of EPS from LAB can be distinguished: extracellular synthesized homopolysaccharides and heteropolygosaccharides with (ir)regularly repeating units that are synthesized from intracellular sugar nucleotide precursors. Hetero-exopolysaccharides are produced in small amounts, usually less than 0.5 g/l (Tieking et al., 2003), as shown in Table 35.1.

The production of glucan and levan from sucrose by Lactobacillus reuteri and the production of a levan-type fructan by L. sanfranciscensis have been described by van Geel-Shutten et al. (1998). As suggested by Di Cagno et al. (2006), the synthesis of the previously mentioned EPS by sourdough LAB could be considered as a useful tool to replace the commercial additives used for improving the texture of baked goods. The fructan from L. sanfranciscensis has been found to positively affect dough rheology and bread texture. Moreover, glucan, fructans, and gluco- and fructooligosaccharides have potential gut health-promoting properties (Poutanen et al, 2009). Fructose oligosaccharides and inulin are increasingly used as prebiotic additives in baked goods. They are not digested by pancreatic enzymes and thus are available for metabolism by intestinal microorganisms, mainly Bifidobacteria (Tieking et al, 2003). In general, EPS are reported to be able to replace hydrocolloids currently used for texturizing, anti-staling, cholesterol-lowering, immunomodulating, antitumoral, and prebiotic activities (Tieking et al., 2003).

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