Fungal communities on alpine cheese rinds in Southern Switzerland

De Respinis, Sophie and Caminada, Annapaola and Pianta, Elisa and Buetti-Dinh, Antoine and Riva Scettrini, Patrizia and Petrini, Liliane and Tonolla, Mauro and Petrini, Orlando (2023) Fungal communities on alpine cheese rinds in Southern Switzerland. Botanical Studies, 64 (6). pp. 1-13.

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Background The biodiversity of the mycobiota of soft cheese rinds such as Brie or Camembert has been extensively studied, but scant information is available on the fungi colonizing the rinds of cheese produced in the Southern Switzerland Alps. This study aimed at exploring the fungal communities present on rinds of cheese matured in five cellars in Southern Switzerland and to evaluate their composition with regards to temperature, relative humidity, type of cheese, as well as microenvironmental and geographic factors. We used macro- and microscopical morphology, matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization–time of flight (MALDI-TOF) mass spectrometry, and sequencing to characterize the fungal communities of the cheeses, and compared them with metabarcoding targeting the ITS region. Results. Isolation by serial dilution yielded 201 isolates (39 yeasts and 162 filamentous fungi) belonging to 9 fungal species. Mucor and Penicillium were dominant, with Mucor racemosus, M. lanceolatus, P. biforme, and P. chrysogenum/rubens being the most frequent species. All but two yeast isolates were identified as Debaryomyces hansenii. Metabarcoding detected 80 fungal species. Culture work and metabarcoding produced comparable results in terms of similarity of the fungal cheese rind communities in the five cellars. Conclusions. Our study has shown that the mycobiota on the rinds of the cheeses studied is a comparatively species-poor community influenced by temperature, relative humidity, type of cheese, and manufacturing steps, as well as microenvironmental and possibly geographic factors.

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