The unique microbial ecologies associated with sourdough fermentation possess unique functions which can be harnessed and manipulated for the production of breads with superior quality. Using a multi-omics approach, we have characterized the relationships between important bacterial and fungal populations in sourdough starter culture microbiomes with their functional outputs as they relate to nutrition, shelf-life stability, and safety for individuals with intolerances to gluten protein.
Sourdough fermentation is an ancient technology with the potential to have a profound impact on modern food production with the help of cutting-edge analytical techniques. Sourdough fermentation utilizes wild bacteria and yeasts to leaven dough, producing CO2, organic acids, and volatile aroma compounds in baked goods likes breads. Sourdough starter cultures have been shown to exhibit significant microbial diversity depending on factors such as origin, age and storage conditions. This diversity in community structure has long been thought to translate into diversity of microbiome functionality over the course of fermentation and quality outcomes, but research in this space has focused largely on contributions of individual microorganisms within communities rather than the functions of diverse communities as a whole. We have employed a multi-omics approach to characterize the relationships between microbial populations in sourdough starter cultures with their functional outputs including (1) nutritional profile such as mineral content and starch digestibility, (2) quality as it pertains to organoleptic properties and shelf life, and (3) immunological parameters including inflammation and gluten immunogenicity for individuals with celiac disease and gluten intolerances. Through these experiments, we have identified unique relationships within sourdough microbial consortia that contribute to specific physical and chemical characteristics in sourdough breads. These findings provide insight towards the use of sourdough fermentation and the development of targeted processing approaches to produce more functional and sustainable bread products that meet the needs and demands of modern consumers.
Pre-Tenured Faculty or Recent PhD Graduate