peer-reviewedBefore a probiotic bacterium can even begin to fulfill its biological role, it must survive a battery of environmental stresses imposed during food processing and passage through the gastrointestinal tract (GIT). Food processing stresses include extremes in temperature, as well as osmotic, oxidative and food matrix stresses. Passage through the GIT is a hazardous journey for any bacteria with deleterious lows in pH encountered in the stomach to the detergent-like properties of bile in the duodenum. However, bacteria are equipped with an array of defense mechanisms to counteract intracellular damage or to enhance the robustness of the cell to withstand lethal external environments. Understanding these mechanisms in probiotic bacteria and indeed other bacterial groups has resulted in the development of a molecular toolbox to augment the technological and gastrointestinal performance of probiotics. This has been greatly aided by studies which examine the global cellular responses to stress highlighting distinct regulatory networks and which also identify novel mechanisms used by cells to cope with hazardous environments. This review highlights the latest studies which have exploited the bacterial stress response with a view to producing next-generation probiotic cultures and highlights the significance of studies which view the global bacterial stress response from an integrative systems biology perspective
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