Sourdough, a traditional fermented dough, is made via natural fermentation by lactic acid bacteria (LAB). Its pH changes from near neutral to acid during the subculture process. However, the product quality of subcultured sourdough depends on the unpredictable succession of LAB communities, the influential factors of which are still unclear. To elucidate one end of the LAB community succession mechanism, we evaluated the effect of pH by designing four subculture experiments using a model medium adjusted to pH 6.7, 5.5, and 4.5, as well as a natural sourdough subculture. All experiments began by inoculating a sourdough LAB mixture, and both bacterial successions and fermentative properties were monitored until ten subculture steps. In media subcultures, lactic acid production was higher in higher pH media. Three LAB genera, Weissella, Pediococcus, and Lactobacillus, each represented by one operational taxonomic unit (OTU), were successively detected in all subcultures. In later steps with lower pH media, an OTU closely related to Lactobacillus brevis dominated, replacing an OTU closely related to the Weissella cibaria-confusa group that was more dominant than the L. brevis OTU in the near-neutral pH medium. In the sourdough subculture, the three genera were also detected, while Lactobacillus was dominant in earlier steps due to the emergence of an OTU closely related to Lactobacillus sanfranciscensis. These results suggest that a lower pH is favorable for the sequence of sourdough bacterial community evolution finalizing with Lactobacillus domination. Further research is needed to elucidate additional factors other than pH that influence the pattern of LAB community shift.
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