We found that incubation of probiotic Lactobacillus casei BL23 in milk at 4 °C prior to ingestion increased its survival in the mammalian digestive tract. To investigate the specific molecular adaptations of L. casei to milk, we used tandem mass spectrometry to compare proteins produced by L. casei BL23 at 4 °C in milk to those in exponential and stationary phase cells in laboratory culture medium at either 37 or 4 °C. These comparisons revealed a core of expressed L. casei proteins as well as proteins produced in either a growth-phase or temperature-specific manner. In total, 205 L. casei proteins were uniquely expressed or detected in higher abundance specifically as a result of incubation in milk and included an over-representation of proteins for cell surface modification, fatty acid metabolism, amino acid transport and metabolism, and inorganic ion transport. Genes for DltD (d-alanine transfer protein), FabH (3-oxoacyl-ACP synthase), RecA (recombinase A), and Sod (superoxide dismutase) were targeted for inactivation. The competitive fitness of the mutants was altered in the mouse intestine compared with wild-type cells. These results show that the food matrix can have a profound influence on dietary (probiotic) bacteria and their functional significance in the mammalian gut.
Keywords: IBD; Lactobacillus casei; dairy; intestinal fitness; low temperature; mass spectrometry; microbiota; milk; probiotics; proteomics.