Twenty-five strains of thermophilic lactobacilli isolated from yoghurt and from semi-hard and hard cheeses (in parallel with nine type or reference strains) were identified and grouped according to their genetic relatedness; Strains were identified by sugar fermentation patterns using the 'API 50 CHL' galleries, by species-specific DNA probes in dot-blot hybridization experiments, by amplification and restriction analysis of the 16S rRNA gene (ARDRA) and by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) using species-specific oligonucleotide primers. Strains were classified as Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. lactis and subsp. bulgaricus, L. helveticus, and L. acidophilus. Strains which were atypical by sugar fermentation patterns were also identified. Most of the strains could not be grouped using carbohydrate fermentation profiles. PCR fingerprinting was used to identify DNA profiles for the 25 lactobacilli. Experimentally obtained PCR profiles enabled discrimination of all strains, which were grouped according to the similarities in their combined patterns. In general, the clustering of the strains corresponded well with species delineation obtained by molecular identification. The dendrogram of genetic relatedness enabled the unambiguous identification of most of the strains which were shown to be atypical by the sugar fermentation profile, except for a discrepancy in one L. delbrueckii subsp. lactis strain and one atypical Lactobacillus sp. strain.
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