Gene-Swapping #Cheese Molds are Ripe for Investigation….

For Tatiana Giraud, cheese isn’t just an emblem of French cuisine—it’s a complex and evolving world of microorganisms.

So when Giraud, a microbiologist at the French National Center for Scientific Research, stocked her lab’s fridge with wheels, wedges, and rounds of cheese ordered online, it wasn’t just to spread globs of the dairy product on crackers. (But rest assured: “We took all the samples we needed,” Giraud says, “and then we ate the remaining.”).

Instead, Giraud and her colleagues were looking for traces of evolution in the molds that make up Camembert’s rind, and that marble Roquefort with blue streaks. And they found something surprising: These distantly-related species of fungi have somehow recently swapped chunks of their DNA. Giraud and her co-authors published their findings earlier this month in the journal Current Biology.

For such a simple dietary staple, cheese turns out to be a miniature barnyard, teeming with microorganisms. These cheese microbes have been domesticated by centuries of cheesemakers, tweaking recipes and conditions to nurture the little bugs that create perfect levels of creaminess or hardness, sharpness, or smoothness.

So cheese is ripe for investigations into how an environment created by humans can shape microbial genes. Giraud and her colleagues rounded up ten species of Penicillium fungus—six of which like living in cheese—and took a look at their genomes.

Full Story Courtesy “The Plate” National Geographic 》》》》


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