Corynebacterium variabile is part of the complex microflora on the surface of smear-ripened cheeses and contributes to the development of flavor and textural properties during cheese ripening. Still little is known about the metabolic processes and microbial interactions during the production of smear-ripened cheeses. Therefore, the gene repertoire contributing to the lifestyle of the cheese isolate C. variabile DSM 44702 was deduced from the complete genome sequence to get a better understanding of this industrial process.
The chromosome of C. variabile DSM 44702 is composed of 3, 433, 007 bp and contains 3, 071 protein-coding regions. A comparative analysis of this gene repertoire with that of other corynebacteria detected 1, 534 predicted genes to be specific for the cheese isolate. These genes might contribute to distinct metabolic capabilities of C. variabile, as several of them are associated with metabolic functions in cheese habitats by playing roles in the utilization of alternative carbon and sulphur sources, in amino acid metabolism, and fatty acid degradation. Relevant C. variabile genes confer the capability to catabolize gluconate, lactate, propionate, taurine, and gamma-aminobutyric acid and to utilize external caseins. In addition, C. variabile is equipped with several siderophore biosynthesis gene clusters for iron acquisition and an exceptional repertoire of AraC-regulated iron uptake systems. Moreover, C. variabile can produce acetoin, butanediol, and methanethiol, which are important flavor compounds in smear-ripened cheeses.
The genome sequence of C. variabile provides detailed insights into the distinct metabolic features of this bacterium, implying a strong adaption to the iron-depleted cheese surface habitat. By combining in silico data obtained from the genome annotation with previous experimental knowledge, occasional observations on genes that are involved in the complex metabolic capacity of C. variabile were integrated into a global view on the lifestyle of this species.