Lactobacillus plantarum characteristics, morphology, applications

Sherman Hoover

Lactobacillus plantarum It is a short rod-shaped, Gram positive, catalase negative bacterium. It is also facultative heterofermentative, facultative aerobic and anaerobic. They are found in many environmental niches and are part of the microbiota of the gastrointestinal tract of humans and other animals..

It belongs to the group of Lactic Acid Bacteria (LAB). This is a functional group that comprises bacteria that produce lactic acid as the main metabolic product of carbohydrate fermentation..

Lactobacillus plantarum, Image credits: Nature. Taken and edited from

It has various applications, mainly in the fermentation of food to obtain products such as yogurt, cheeses, pickles, sausages and silage, among others..

Article index

  • 1 Features
  • 2 Taxonomy
  • 3 Morphology
  • 4 Applications
    • 4.1 In the pharmaceutical industry:
    • 4.2 In food production
    • 4.3 Biopreservative
  • 5 Diseases
  • 6 References


Lactobacillus plantarum It is a Gram-positive, non-spore-forming, catalase-negative bacterium. It is tolerant aerobic and facultative anaerobic. It has a low G-C content. It is capable of growing at a temperature range between 15 and 45 ° C. Tolerates pH values ​​between 4 and 9.

This bacterium is capable of producing lactic acid by fermentation of glucose using a metabolic pathway called EMP. Fermentation of hexoses by this metabolic pathway produces D- and L-lactic acids.

L. plantarum It ferments more than 90% at least 10 types of carbohydrates, including mannitol, ribose, and sucrose. Arabinose and xylose are fermented between 11 and 89%.


Lactobacillus plantarum was first described by Orla-Jennsen in 1919, calling it Streptobacterium plantarum. Later Pederson (1936) relocated it to the genre Lactobacillus. Taxonomically it is located in the phylum Firmicutes, class Bacilli, order Lactobacillales, and the family Lactobacillaceae.

Functionally it is included among Lactic Acid Bacteria (BAL) and is Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS). GRAS is a designation granted by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the United States of North America..

This appointment is given to substances whose addition to food is considered safe by experts. GRAS are exempt from the Federal Law on Food, Drugs and Cosmetics of that country.

The gender Lactobacillus It is divided into three groups (A, B and C). Lactobacillus plantarum It is included in group B. This group houses facultative heterofermentative species, capable of producing lactic acid by fermentation of glucose. Additionally, it belongs to a complex of species that bears his name and that contains four other species.


Lactobacillus plantarum it is a rod-shaped microorganism with rounded ends. It is approximately 0.9 to 1.2 µm wide by 1.0 to 8.0 µm long. It can grow solitary or forming short chains.

Its cell wall is high in peptidoglycans and lacks an outer cell membrane. It has a low proportion of G-C and its genome is greater than that of the rest of the representatives of the group of Lactic Acid Bacteria.

On its circular chromosome it contains 3,308,274 base pairs. It has three plasmids, called pWCFS101, pWCFS102 and pWCFS103.

Lactobacillus plantarum. Taken and edited from


Lactobacillus plantarum It has a wide range of applications in the food industry as a starter culture and as a preservative. Recently, its use as a probiotic and in the fermentation of dairy products has increased. Its use in the production of wines, meat products and fermented vegetables has also been increased..

This bacteria is easy to grow and is considered a safe probiotic. Can suppress large number of pathogenic microorganisms from food products.

It is useful against diseases that can adversely affect humans. It has also shown a positive effect on the health, survival and weight gain of piglet cattle during weaning..

In the pharmaceutical industry:

Lactobacillus plantarum It is useful in the treatment of diarrhea, it also helps to reduce the concentration of total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol in the blood. In patients with irritable bowel, it helps reduce symptoms such as pain and flatulence.

It could have a preventive effect on milder gastrointestinal symptoms during antibiotic treatment. Preliminary results show that it stimulates the specific immune system in children congenitally exposed to the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

Laboratory tests with mice show that administration of lyophilized strains of the bacteria helps protect them against infection by the H1N1 influenza virus. This occurs because the bacteria stimulate the production of type I interferon by the mice..

In food production

Lactobacillus plantarum It is used, together with other LABs, for the production of some fermented foods, especially in the dairy industry.

These products are of high quality and have good properties of texture, taste and chemical content. Bacteria do not increase acidification during milk fermentation and product storage processes.


Lactobacillus plantarum is a BAL with high potential as a probiotic bioconservative, because it is part of the intestinal flora of humans. Another favorable aspect is that it has a long history of safe use as a starter culture in food fermentation..

Additionally, different strains of L. plantarum produce antimicrobial compounds with antagonistic activity against pathogenic and decomposing bacteria. It also produces antifungal compounds that can replace potentially harmful preservatives in food products..

Some strains of Lactobacillus plantarum they produce bacteriocins, called plantaricins. Bacteriocins are protein toxins synthesized to inhibit the growth of other bacteria.

Plantaricins suppress the growth of at least five common foodborne pathogens. Among these pathogens are Escherichia coli Y Salmonella typhimurium. In addition, they have antagonistic activity against bacteria responsible for diseases such as gastritis, ulcers, cavities and candidiasis..


The species of Lactobacillus they are part of the normal gastrointestinal flora of humans. Although very rarely, they have also been isolated from a variety of human infections, especially in people with weakened immune systems. Infections caused by bacteria of this genus include bacteremia, endocarditis, abscesses, and meningitis..

Lactobacillus plantarum, for its part, it has been associated with inflammation of the gallbladder, dental abscesses, cavities and peritonitis. The correct identification of this bacterium is difficult, however it is very important, as it is usually resistant to vancomycin and other antibiotics..


  1. J.C. Goldstein, K.L. Tyrrell, D.M. Citron (2015). Lactobacillus Species: Taxonomic Complexity and Controversial Susceptibilities. Clinical Infectious Diseases
  2. G. Melgar-Lalanne, Y. Rivera, H. Hernández-Sánchez (2012). Lactobacliilus plantarum: An overview with emphasis in biochemical and healthy properties. In: Lactobacillus: Classification, uses and health implications. Not going. Science Publishers.
  3. A. Abdelazez, H. Abdelmotaal, Z.-T. Zhu, J. Fang-Fang, R. Sami, L.-J. Zhang, A.R. Al-Tawaha, Xi.-C. Meng, 2018. Potential benefits of Lactobacillus plantarum as probiotic and its advantages in human health and industrial applications: A review. Advances in Environmental. Biology.
  4. H. Jurado-Gámez, C. Ramírez, J. Martínez (2013). In vivo evaluation of Lactobacillus plantarum as an alternative to the use of antibiotics in piglets. Magazine MVZ Córdoba.
  5. S.D. Todorov, B.D. Frank. (2010). Lactobacillus plantarum: Characterization of the Species and Application in Food Production. Food Reviews International.
  6. D. Tena, N.M. Martínez, C. Losa, C. Fernández, M.J. Medina, & J.A. Sáez-Nieto (2013). Acute acalculous cholecystitis complicated with peritonitis caused by Lactobacillus plantarum. Diagnostic Microbiology and Infectious Disease.

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