In 2010, bottles of beer containing viable bacteria of the common beer-spoilage species Lactobacillus backii and Pediococcus damnosus were recovered from a shipwreck near the Åland Islands, Finland. The 170-year quiescent state maintained by the shipwreck bacteria presented a unique opportunity to study lactic acid bacteria (LAB) evolution vis-a-vis growth and survival in the beer environment. Three shipwreck bacteria (one L. backii strain and two P. damnosus strains) and modern-day beer-spoilage isolates of the same two species were genome sequenced, characterized for hop iso-α-acid tolerance, and growth in degassed lager and wheat beer. In addition, plasmid variants of the modern-day P. damnosus strain were analyzed for the effect of plasmid-encoded genes on growth in lager beer. Coding content on two plasmids was identified as essential for LAB growth in modern lager beer. Three chromosomal regions containing genes related to sugar transport and cell wall polysaccharides were shared by pediococci able to grow in beer. Our results show that the three shipwreck bacteria lack the necessary plasmid-located genetic content to grow in modern lager beer, but carry additional genes related to acid tolerance and biofilm formation compared to their modern counterparts.
Kajala, I., Bergsveinson, J., Friesen, V., Redekop, A., Juvonen, R., Storgårds, E., & Ziola, B. (2018). Lactobacillus backii and Pediococcus damnosus isolated from 170-year-old beer recovered from a shipwreck lack the metabolic activities required to grow in modern lager beer. FEMS Microbiology Ecology, 94(1), [fix152]. https://doi.org/10.1093/femsec/fix152