Lactococcus lactis bacterium converts sugar into lactate, and are commonly used for the manufacture of dairy products e.g., cheese, but also frequently found in natural environments, especially on plants. Due to the restricted nutrient availability, natural microbial populations commonly live in hunger situation, which is different from starvation. Similarly, L. lactis experiences such nutrient-poor conditions in diverse industrial fermentation applications, e.g., during the ripening process of cheese. To investigate the behaviour of this microbe at hunger conditions, the integrated genomics and physiological analyses were performed.
L. lactis has developed three strategies to maintain cell-viability under nutrient-poor conditions: i) reorienting its energy production pathways, ii) scavenging trace amounts of alternative nutrients, iii) increasing stress tolerance. These adaptations of the hungry microbe may benefit its industrial application through higher survival percentages of cells during its production and processing, but may also enhance its contribution to flavor formation during ripening or extend the shelf-life of products.