Fifteen strains of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium were screened based on their ability to adhere to hydrocarbons via the determination of cellular hydrophobicity. Lactobacillus acidophilus ATCC 314, L. acidophilus FTCC 0291, Lactobacillus bulgaricus FTCC 0411, L. bulgaricus FTDC 1311, and L. casei ATCC 393 showed greater hydrophobicity and, thus, were selected for examination of cholesterol-removal properties. All selected strains showed changes in cellular fatty acid compositions, especially total fatty acids and saturated and unsaturated fatty acids in the presence of cholesterol compared with those grown in the absence of cholesterol. In addition, we found that cells grown in media containing cholesterol were more resistant to sonication and enzymatic lysis compared with those grown without cholesterol. We further evaluated the location of the incorporated cholesterol via the insertion of fluorescence probes into the cellular membrane. In general, enrichment of cholesterol was found in the regions of the phospholipid tails, upper phospholipids, and polar heads of the cellular membrane phospholipid bilayer. Our results also showed that lactobacilli were able to reduce cholesterol via conversion of cholesterol to coprostanol, aided by the ability of strains to produce cholesterol reductase. Our results provided experimental evidence to strengthen the hypothesis that probiotics could remove cholesterol via the incorporation of cholesterol into the cellular membrane and conversion of cholesterol to coprostanol. The strains studied may be potential health adjunct cultures in fermented dairy products with possible in vivo hypocholesterolemic effects.
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