Numerous microbes inhabit the mammalian intestinal track and strongly impact host physiology; however, our understanding of this ecosystem remains limited owing to the high complexity of the microbial community and the presence of numerous non-culturable microbes. Segmented filamentous bacteria (SFBs), which are clostridia-related Gram-positive bacteria, are among such non-culturable populations and are well known for their unique morphology and tight attachment to intestinal epithelial cells. Recent studies have revealed that SFBs play crucial roles in the post-natal maturation of gut immune function, especially the induction of Th17 lymphocytes. Here, we report the complete genome sequence of mouse SFBs. The genome, which comprises a single circular chromosome of 1 620 005 bp, lacks genes for the biosynthesis of almost all amino acids, vitamins/cofactors and nucleotides, but contains a full set of genes for sporulation/germination and, unexpectedly, for chemotaxis/flagella-based motility. These findings suggest a triphasic lifestyle of the SFB, which comprises two types of vegetative (swimming and epicellular parasitic) phases and a dormant (spore) phase. Furthermore, SFBs encode four types of flagellin, three of which are recognized by Toll-like receptor 5 and could elicit the innate immune response. Our results reveal the non-culturability, lifestyle and immunostimulation mechanisms of SFBs and provide a genetic basis for the future development of the SFB cultivation and gene-manipulation techniques.
Keywords: segmented filamentous bacterium, non-culturable bacteria, genome, flagella