Abundance, diversity and plant-specific adaptations of plant-associated lactic acid bacteria

Environ Microbiol Rep. 2020 Feb;12(1):16-29. doi: 10.1111/1758-2229.12794. Epub 2019 Oct 28.


Lactic acid bacteria (LAB) are essential for many fruit, vegetable and grain food and beverage fermentations. However, the numbers, diversity and plant-specific adaptions of LAB found on plant tissues prior to the start of those fermentations are not well understood. When measured, these bacteria have been recovered from the aerial surfaces of plants in a range from <10 CFU g-1 to over 108.5 CFU g-1 of plant tissue and in lower quantities from the soil and rhizosphere. Plant-associated LAB include well-known generalist taxa such as Lactobacillus plantarum and Leuconostoc mesenteroides, which are essential for numerous food and beverage fermentations. Other plant-associated LAB encompass specialist taxa such as Lactobacillus florum and Fructobacillus, many of which were discovered relatively recently and their significance on plants and in foods is not yet recognized. LAB recovered from plants possess the capacity to consume plant sugars, detoxify phenolic compounds and tolerate the numerous biotic and abiotic stresses common to plant surfaces. Although most generalist and some specialist LAB grow rapidly in food and beverages fermentations and can cause spoilage of fresh and fermented fruits and vegetables, the importance of living plants as habitats for these bacteria and LAB contributions to plant microbiomes remain to be shown.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.