Microbial communities living on cheese surfaces are composed of various bacteria, yeasts and molds that interact together, thus generating the typical sensory properties of a cheese. Physiological and genomic investigations have revealed important functions involved in the ability of microorganisms to establish themselves at the cheese surface. These functions include the ability to use the cheese's main energy sources, to acquire iron, to tolerate low pH at the beginning of ripening and to adapt to high salt concentrations and moisture levels. Horizontal gene transfer events involved in the adaptation to the cheese habitat have been described, both for bacteria and fungi. In the future, in situ microbial gene expression profiling and identification of genes that contribute to strain fitness by massive sequencing of transposon libraries will help us to better understand how cheese surface communities function.
Keywords: Arthrobacter; Brevibacterium; Debaryomyces hansenii; Geotrichum candidum; cheese rind; ripening; smear-ripened cheese.
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