Newly produced olive oil has an opalescent appearance due to the presence of solid particles and micro-drops of vegetation water from the fruits. Some of our recent microbiological research has shown that a rich micro-flora is present in the suspended fraction of the freshly produced olive oil capable of improving the quality of the oil through the hydrolysis of the oleuropein. Present research however has, for the first time, demonstrated the presence of lipase-positive yeasts in some samples of extra virgin olive oil which can lower the quality of the oil through the hydrolysis of the triglycerides. The tests performed with yeasts of our collection, previously isolated from olive oil, demonstrated that two lipase-producing yeast strains named Saccharomyces cerevisiae 1525 and Williopsis californica 1639 were able to hydrolyse different specific synthetic substrates represented by p-nitrophenyl stearate, 4-nitrophenyl palmitate, tripalmitin and triolein as well as olive oil triglycerides. The lipase activity in S. cerevisiae 1525 was confined to the whole cells, whereas in W. californica 1639 it was also detected in the extracellular fraction. The enzyme activity in both yeasts was influenced by the ratio of the aqueous to the organic phase reaching its maximum value in S. cerevisiae 1525 when the water added to the olive oil was present in a ratio of 0.25% (v/v), whereas in W. californica 1639 the optimal ratio was 1% (v/v). Furthermore, the free fatty acids of olive oil proved to be good inducers of lipase activity in both yeasts. The microbiological analysis carried out on commercial extra virgin olive oil, produced in four different geographic areas, demonstrated that the presence of lipase-producing yeast varied from zero to 56% of the total yeasts detected, according to the source of oil samples. The discovery of lipase-positive yeasts in some extra virgin olive oils leads us to believe that yeasts are able to contribute in a positive or negative way towards the organological quality of the olive oil
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