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Cheese Rind Study Uncovers Microbiome-Mediating Fungal Features

In a paper appearing in mBio, a Tufts University- and University of Wisconsin-led team explores antimicrobial metabolite roles in a natural setting, focusing on the cheese rind bacterial community impacts of a Penicillium fungus regulatory gene called laeA. Using RNA sequencing and liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry-based metabolite profiling, the researchers delved into the rise in bacterial representation in cheese rind communities exposed to a version of Penicillium missing the laeA gene. In the absence of the fungal regulator, for example, they saw dampened pseurotin metabolite production in the fungus, while cheese rind bacterial community features became more typical when they dialed down another fungal gene contributing to pseurotin production. "Our results suggest that some pesky mold species in artisan cheeses may disrupt normal cheese development by deploying antibiotics," senior author Benjamin Wolfe, a biology researcher at Tufts, says in a statement. "These findings allow us to work with cheesemakers to identify which molds are the bad ones and how to manage them in their cheese caves. It also helps us appreciate that every time we eat artisan cheese, we are consuming the metabolites that microbes use to compete and cooperate in communities."