Fermented table olives (Olea europaea L.) are largely diffused in the Mediterranean area. Olives are picked at different stages of maturity and after harvesting, processed to eliminate the characteristic bitterness caused by the presence of the oleuropein glucoside and to become suitable for human consumption. The spontaneous fermentation of table olives mainly depends on lactic acid bacteria (LAB), and in particular on Lactobacillus plantarum which plays an important role in the degradation of oleuropein. The hydrolysis of oleuropein is attributed to the β-glucosidase and esterase activities of the indigenous LAB microflora. This study investigated the potential of L. plantarum strains isolated from dairy products and olives to be used as starters for fermented table olives. Forty-nine strains were typed by RAPD-PCR and investigated for the presence of the β-glucosidase (bglH) gene. The full sequence of the bglH gene was carried out. All the 49 L. plantarum strains were also tested for phage resistance. A total of six strains were selected on the basis of genotypic polymorphism, bglH gene sequence analysis, and phage resistance profile. These strains were further characterized to assess the acidifying capability, the growth at different temperatures, the tolerance to different NaCl concentrations, and the oleuropeinolytic activity. Although further characterizations are required, especially concerning the influence on sensory properties, L. plantarum proved to have the potential to be used as a debittering and fermentative agent in starter culture for fermented table olives.
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