Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR), together with associated genes (cas), form the CRISPR–cas adaptive immune system, which can provide resistance to viruses and plasmids in bacteria and archaea. Here, we use mathematical models, population dynamic experiments, and DNA sequence analyses to investigate the host–phage interactions in a model CRISPR–cas system, Streptococcus thermophilus DGCC7710 and its virulent phage 2972. At the molecular level, the bacteriophage-immune mutant bacteria (BIMs) and CRISPR–escape mutant phage (CEMs) obtained in this study are consistent with those anticipated from an iterative model of this adaptive immune system: resistance by the addition of novel spacers and phage evasion of resistance by mutation in matching sequences or flanking motifs. While CRISPR BIMs were readily isolated and CEMs generated at high rates (frequencies in excess of 10−6), our population studies indicate that there is more to the dynamics of phage–host interactions and the establishment of a BIM–CEM arms race than predicted from existing assumptions about phage infection and CRISPR–cas immunity. Among the unanticipated observations are: (i) the invasion of phage into populations of BIMs resistant by the acquisition of one (but not two) spacers, (ii) the survival of sensitive bacteria despite the presence of high densities of phage, and (iii) the maintenance of phage-limited communities due to the failure of even two-spacer BIMs to become established in populations with wild-type bacteria and phage. We attribute (i) to incomplete resistance of single-spacer BIMs. Based on the results of additional modeling and experiments, we postulate that (ii) and (iii) can be attributed to the phage infection-associated production of enzymes or other compounds that induce phenotypic phage resistance in sensitive bacteria and kill resistant BIMs. We present evidence in support of these hypotheses and discuss the implications of these results for the ecology and (co)evolution of bacteria and phage.
The evidence that the CRISPR regions of the genomes of archaea and bacteria play a role in the ecology and (co)evolution of these microbes and their viruses is overwhelming: (i) the spacers (variable sequences of 26–72 bp of DNA between the repeats of this region) of these prokaryotes are homologous to the DNA of viruses in their communities; (ii) experimentally, the acquisition and incorporation of spacers of viral DNA can protect these organisms from subsequent infection by these viruses; (iii) experimentally, viruses evade this immunity by mutation in homologous protospacers or protospacer-adjacent motifs (PAMs). Not so clear are the nature and magnitude of the role CRISPR plays in this ecology and evolution. Here, we use mathematical models, experiments with Streptococcus thermophilus and the phage 2972, and DNA sequence analyses to explore the contribution of CRISPR–cas immunity to the ecology and (co)evolution of bacteria and their viruses. The results of this study suggest that the contribution of CRISPR to the ecology of bacteria and phage is more modest and limited, and the conditions for a CRISPR–mediated coevolutionary arms race between these organisms more restrictive, than anticipated from models based on the canonical view of phage infection and CRISPR–cas immunity.
We present the complete genomes of Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. lactis B420 and Bi-07. Comparative genomic analysis with the type strain DSMZ10140 revealed 40 to 55 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and an indel in a clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat (CRISPR) locus. These genetic differences provide a molecular basis for strain typing within the two main phylogenetic groups of this monomorphic species.
The broad ecological distribution of L. casei makes it an insightful subject for research on genome evolution and lifestyle adaptation. To explore evolutionary mechanisms that determine genomic diversity of L. casei, we performed comparative analysis of 17 L. casei genomes representing strains collected from dairy, plant, and human sources.
Differences in L. casei genome inventory revealed an open pan-genome comprised of 1,715 core and 4,220 accessory genes. Extrapolation of pan-genome data indicates L. casei has a supragenome approximately 3.2 times larger than the average genome of individual strains. Evidence suggests horizontal gene transfer from other bacterial species, particularly lactobacilli, has been important in adaptation of L. casei to new habitats and lifestyles, but evolution of dairy niche specialists also appears to involve gene decay.
Genome diversity in L. casei has evolved through gene acquisition and decay. Acquisition of foreign genomic islands likely confers a fitness benefit in specific habitats, notably plant-associated niches. Loss of unnecessary ancestral traits in strains collected from bacterial-ripened cheeses supports the hypothesis that gene decay contributes to enhanced fitness in that niche. This study gives the first evidence for a L. casei supragenome and provides valuable insights into mechanisms for genome evolution and lifestyle adaptation of this ecologically flexible and industrially important lactic acid bacterium. Additionally, our data confirm the Distributed Genome Hypothesis extends to non-pathogenic, ecologically flexible species like L. casei.
Lactobacillus casei; Lactic acid bacteria; Comparative genomics; Pan-genome; Supragenome; Evolution; Adaptation
The human gastrointestinal tract can be positively modulated by dietary supplementation of probiotic bacteria in combination with prebiotic carbohydrates. Here differential transcriptomics and functional genomics were used to identify genes in Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM involved in the uptake and catabolism of 11 potential prebiotic compounds consisting of α- and β- linked galactosides and glucosides. These oligosaccharides induced genes encoding phosphoenolpyruvate-dependent sugar phosphotransferase systems (PTS), galactoside pentose hexuronide (GPH) permease, and ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporters. PTS systems were upregulated primarily by di- and tri-saccharides such as cellobiose, isomaltose, isomaltulose, panose and gentiobiose, while ABC transporters were upregulated by raffinose, Polydextrose, and stachyose. A single GPH transporter was induced by lactitol and galactooligosaccharides (GOS). The various transporters were associated with a number of glycoside hydrolases from families 1, 2, 4, 13, 32, 36, 42, and 65, involved in the catabolism of various α- and β-linked glucosides and galactosides. Further subfamily specialization was also observed for different PTS-associated GH1 6-phospho-β-glucosidases implicated in the catabolism of gentiobiose and cellobiose. These findings highlight the broad oligosaccharide metabolic repertoire of L. acidophilus NCFM and establish a platform for selection and screening of both probiotic bacteria and prebiotic compounds that may positively influence the gastrointestinal microbiota.
The CRISPR–Cas (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats–CRISPR-associated proteins) modules are adaptive immunity systems that are present in many archaea and bacteria. These defence systems are encoded by operons that have an extraordinarily diverse architecture and a high rate of evolution for both the cas genes and the unique spacer content. Here, we provide an updated analysis of the evolutionary relationships between CRISPR–Cas systems and Cas proteins. Three major types of CRISPR–Cas system are delineated, with a further division into several subtypes and a few chimeric variants. Given the complexity of the genomic architectures and the extremely dynamic evolution of the CRISPR–Cas systems, a unified classification of these systems should be based on multiple criteria. Accordingly, we propose a `polythetic' classification that integrates the phylogenies of the most common cas genes, the sequence and organization of the CRISPR repeats and the architecture of the CRISPR–cas loci.
The CRISPR/Cas system, comprised of clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats along with their associated (Cas) proteins, protects bacteria and archaea from viral predation and invading nucleic acids. While the mechanism of action for this acquired immunity is currently under investigation, the response of Cas protein expression to phage infection has yet to be elucidated. In this study, we employed shotgun proteomics to measure the global proteome expression in a model system for studying the CRISPR/Cas response in S. thermophilus DGCC7710 infected with phage 2972. Host and viral proteins were simultaneously measured following inoculation at two different multiplicities of infection and across various time points using two-dimensional liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry. Thirty-seven out of forty predicted viral proteins were detected, including all proteins of the structural virome and viral effector proteins. In total, 1,013 of 2,079 predicted S. thermophilus proteins were detected, facilitating the monitoring of host protein synthesis changes in response to virus infection. Importantly, Cas proteins from all four CRISPR loci in the S. thermophilus DGCC7710 genome were detected, including loci previously thought to be inactive. Many Cas proteins were found to be constitutively expressed, but several demonstrated increased abundance following infection, including the signature Cas9 proteins from the CRISPR1 and CRISPR3 loci, which are key players in the interference phase of the CRISPR/Cas response. Altogether, these results provide novel insights into the proteomic response of S. thermophilus, specifically CRISPR-associated proteins, upon phage 2972 infection.
Well-studied innate immune systems exist throughout bacteria and archaea, but a more recently discovered genomic locus may offer prokaryotes surprising immunological adaptability. Mediated by a cassette-like genomic locus termed Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR), the microbial adaptive immune system differs from its eukaryotic immune analogues by incorporating new immunities unidirectionally. CRISPR thus stores genomically recoverable timelines of virus-host coevolution in natural organisms refractory to laboratory cultivation. Here we combined a population genetic mathematical model of CRISPR-virus coevolution with six years of metagenomic sequencing to link the recoverable genomic dynamics of CRISPR loci to the unknown population dynamics of virus and host in natural communities. Metagenomic reconstructions in an acid-mine drainage system document CRISPR loci conserving ancestral immune elements to the base-pair across thousands of microbial generations. This ‘trailer-end conservation’ occurs despite rapid viral mutation and despite rapid prokaryotic genomic deletion. The trailer-ends of many reconstructed CRISPR loci are also largely identical across a population. ‘Trailer-end clonality’ occurs despite predictions of host immunological diversity due to negative frequency dependent selection (kill the winner dynamics). Statistical clustering and model simulations explain this lack of diversity by capturing rapid selective sweeps by highly immune CRISPR lineages. Potentially explaining ‘trailer-end conservation,’ we record the first example of a viral bloom overwhelming a CRISPR system. The polyclonal viruses bloom even though they share sequences previously targeted by host CRISPR loci. Simulations show how increasing random genomic deletions in CRISPR loci purges immunological controls on long-lived viral sequences, allowing polyclonal viruses to bloom and depressing host fitness. Our results thus link documented patterns of genomic conservation in CRISPR loci to an evolutionary advantage against persistent viruses. By maintaining old immunities, selection may be tuning CRISPR-mediated immunity against viruses reemerging from lysogeny or migration.
Most microbes appear unculturable in the laboratory, limiting our knowledge of how virus and prokaryotic host evolve in natural systems. However, a genomic locus found in many prokaryotes, CRISPR, may offer cultivation-independent probes of virus-microbe coevolution. Utilizing nearby genes, CRISPR can serially incorporate short viral and plasmid sequences. These sequences bind and cleave cognate regions in subsequent viral and plasmid insertions, conferring adaptive anti-viral and anti-plasmid immunity. By incorporating sequences undirectionally, CRISPR also provides timelines of virus-prokaryote coevolution. Yet, CRISPR only incorporates 30–80 base-pair viral sequences, leaving incomplete coevolutionary recordings. To reconstruct the missing coevolutionary dynamics shaping natural CRISPRs, we combined metagenomic reconstructions with population-scale mathematical modeling. Capturing rare and rapid sweeps of CRISPR diversity by highly immune lines, mathematical modeling explains why naturally reconstructed CRISPR loci are often largely identical across a population. Both model and experiment further document surprising proliferations of old viral sequences against which hosts had preexisting CRISPR immunity. Due to these deadly blooms of ancestral viral elements, CRISPR's conservation of old immune sequences appears to confer a selective advantage. This may explain the striking immunological memory documented in CRISPR loci, which occurs despite rapid viral mutation and despite rapid deletions in prokaryotic genomes.
Salmonella enterica subsp. enterica serovar Enteritidis is a major cause of food-borne salmonellosis in the United States. Two major food vehicles for S. Enteritidis are contaminated eggs and chicken meat. Improved subtyping methods are needed to accurately track specific strains of S. Enteritidis related to human salmonellosis throughout the chicken and egg food system. A sequence typing scheme based on virulence genes (fimH and sseL) and clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPRs)—CRISPR-including multi-virulence-locus sequence typing (designated CRISPR-MVLST)—was used to characterize 35 human clinical isolates, 46 chicken isolates, 24 egg isolates, and 63 hen house environment isolates of S. Enteritidis. A total of 27 sequence types (STs) were identified among the 167 isolates. CRISPR-MVLST identified three persistent and predominate STs circulating among U.S. human clinical isolates and chicken, egg, and hen house environmental isolates in Pennsylvania, and an ST that was found only in eggs and humans. It also identified a potential environment-specific sequence type. Moreover, cluster analysis based on fimH and sseL identified a number of clusters, of which several were found in more than one outbreak, as well as 11 singletons. Further research is needed to determine if CRISPR-MVLST might help identify the ecological origins of S. Enteritidis strains that contaminate chickens and eggs.
Salmonella enterica subsp. enterica is the leading cause of bacterial food-borne disease in the United States. Molecular subtyping methods are powerful tools for tracking the farm-to-fork spread of food-borne pathogens during outbreaks. In order to develop a novel multilocus sequence typing (MLST) scheme for subtyping the major serovars of S. enterica subsp. enterica, the virulence genes sseL and fimH and clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat (CRISPR) loci were sequenced from 171 clinical isolates from nine Salmonella serovars, Salmonella serovars Typhimurium, Enteritidis, Newport, Heidelberg, Javiana, I 4,,12:i:−, Montevideo, Muenchen, and Saintpaul. The MLST scheme using only virulence genes was congruent with serotyping and identified epidemic clones but could not differentiate outbreaks. The addition of CRISPR sequences dramatically improved discriminatory power by differentiating individual outbreak strains/clones. Of particular note, the present MLST scheme provided better discrimination of Salmonella serovar Enteritidis strains than pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE). This method showed high epidemiologic concordance for all serovars screened except for Salmonella serovar Muenchen. In conclusion, the novel MLST scheme described in the present study accurately differentiated outbreak strains/clones of the major serovars of Salmonella, and therefore, it shows promise for subtyping this important food-borne pathogen during investigations of outbreaks.
The CRISPR/Cas adaptive immune system provides resistance against phages and plasmids in Archaea and Bacteria. CRISPR loci integrate short DNA sequences from invading genetic elements that provide small RNA-mediated interference in subsequent exposure to matching nucleic acids. In Streptococcus thermophilus, it was previously shown that the CRISPR1/Cas system can provide adaptive immunity against phages and plasmids by integrating novel spacers following exposure to these foreign genetic elements that subsequently direct the specific cleavage of invasive homologous DNA sequences. Here, we show that the S. thermophilus CRISPR3/Cas system can be transferred into Escherichia coli and provide heterologous protection against plasmid transformation and phage infection. We show that interference is sequence-specific, and that mutations in the vicinity or within the proto-spacer adjacent motif (PAM) allow plasmids to escape CRISPR-encoded immunity. We also establish that cas9 is the sole cas gene necessary for CRISPR-encoded interference. Furthermore, mutation analysis revealed that interference relies on the Cas9 McrA/HNH- and RuvC/RNaseH-motifs. Altogether, our results show that active CRISPR/Cas systems can be transferred across distant genera and provide heterologous interference against invasive nucleic acids. This can be leveraged to develop strains more robust against phage attack, and safer organisms less likely to uptake and disseminate plasmid-encoded undesirable genetic elements.
Several probiotic strains of Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. lactis are widely supplemented into food products and dietary supplements due to their documented health benefits and ability to survive within the mammalian gastrointestinal tract and acidified dairy products. The strain specificity of these characteristics demands techniques with high discriminatory power to differentiate among strains. However, to date, molecular approaches, such as pulsed-field gel electrophoresis and randomly amplified polymorphic DNA-PCR, have been ineffective at achieving strain separation due to the monomorphic nature of this subspecies. Previously, sequencing and comparison of two B. animalis subsp. lactis genomes (DSMZ 10140 and Bl-04) confirmed this high level of sequence similarity, identifying only 47 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and four insertions and/or deletions (INDELs) between them. In this study, we hypothesized that a sequence-based typing method targeting these loci would permit greater discrimination between strains than previously attempted methods. Sequencing 50 of these loci in 24 strains of B. animalis subsp. lactis revealed that a combination of nine SNPs/INDELs could be used to differentiate strains into 14 distinct genotypic groups. In addition, the presence of a nonsynonymous SNP within the gene encoding a putative glucose uptake protein was found to correlate with the ability of certain strains to transport glucose and to grow rapidly in a medium containing glucose as the sole carbon source. The method reported here can be used in clinical, regulatory, and commercial applications requiring identification of B. animalis subsp. lactis at the strain level.
So far, only scarce and rather diffuse information is available on bacteriophages infecting members of the genus Bifidobacterium. In the current study, we investigated the genetic organization, phylogenetic relationships, and, in some cases, transcription profiles and inducibility of 19 prophage-like elements present on the individual chromosomes of nine bifidobacterial strains, which represent six different species.
Bifidobacteria are important members of the human gut flora, especially in infants. Comparative genomic analysis of two Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. lactis strains revealed evolution by internal deletion of consecutive spacer-repeat units within a novel clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat locus, which represented the largest differential content between the two genomes. Additionally, 47 single nucleotide polymorphisms were identified, consisting primarily of nonsynonymous mutations, indicating positive selection and/or recent divergence. A particular nonsynonymous mutation in a putative glucose transporter was linked to a negative phenotypic effect on the ability of the variant to catabolize glucose, consistent with a modification in the predicted protein transmembrane topology. Comparative genome sequence analysis of three Bifidobacterium species provided a core genome set of 1,117 orthologs complemented by a pan-genome of 2,445 genes. The genome sequences of the intestinal bacterium B. animalis subsp. lactis provide insights into rapid genome evolution and the genetic basis for adaptation to the human gut environment, notably with regard to catabolism of dietary carbohydrates, resistance to bile and acid, and interaction with the intestinal epithelium. The high degree of genome conservation observed between the two strains in terms of size, organization, and sequence is indicative of a genomically monomorphic subspecies and explains the inability to differentiate the strains by standard techniques such as pulsed-field gel electrophoresis.
This study presents the complete genome sequence of Lactobacillus gasseri ATCC 33323, a neotype strain of human origin and a native species found commonly in the gastrointestinal tracts of neonates and adults. The plasmid-free genome was 1,894,360 bp in size and predicted to encode 1,810 genes. The GC content was 35.3%, similar to the GC content of its closest relatives, L. johnsonii NCC 533 (34%) and L. acidophilus NCFM (34%). Two identical copies of the prophage LgaI (40,086 bp), of the Sfi11-like Siphoviridae phage family, were integrated tandomly in the chromosome. A number of unique features were identified in the genome of L. gasseri that were likely acquired by horizontal gene transfer and may contribute to the survival of this bacterium in its ecological niche. L. gasseri encodes two restriction and modification systems, which may limit bacteriophage infection. L. gasseri also encodes an operon for production of heteropolysaccharides of high complexity. A unique alternative sigma factor was present similar to that of B. caccae ATCC 43185, a bacterial species isolated from human feces. In addition, L. gasseri encoded the highest number of putative mucus-binding proteins (14) among lactobacilli sequenced to date. Selected phenotypic characteristics that were compared between ATCC 33323 and other human L. gasseri strains included carbohydrate fermentation patterns, growth and survival in bile, oxalate degradation, and adhesion to intestinal epithelial cells, in vitro. The results from this study indicated high intraspecies variability from a genome encoding traits important for survival and retention in the gastrointestinal tract.
Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR) and their associated genes are linked to a mechanism of acquired resistance against bacteriophages. Bacteria can integrate short stretches of phage-derived sequences (spacers) within CRISPR loci to become phage resistant. In this study, we further characterized the efficiency of CRISPR1 as a phage resistance mechanism in Streptococcus thermophilus. First, we show that CRISPR1 is distinct from previously known phage defense systems and is effective against the two main groups of S. thermophilus phages. Analyses of 30 bacteriophage-insensitive mutants of S. thermophilus indicate that the addition of one new spacer in CRISPR1 is the most frequent outcome of a phage challenge and that the iterative addition of spacers increases the overall phage resistance of the host. The added new spacers have a size of between 29 to 31 nucleotides, with 30 being by far the most frequent. Comparative analysis of 39 newly acquired spacers with the complete genomic sequences of the wild-type phages 2972, 858, and DT1 demonstrated that the newly added spacer must be identical to a region (named proto-spacer) in the phage genome to confer a phage resistance phenotype. Moreover, we found a CRISPR1-specific sequence (NNAGAAW) located downstream of the proto-spacer region that is important for the phage resistance phenotype. Finally, we show through the analyses of 20 mutant phages that virulent phages are rapidly evolving through single nucleotide mutations as well as deletions, in response to CRISPR1.
Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR) are hypervariable loci widely distributed in prokaryotes that provide acquired immunity against foreign genetic elements. Here, we characterize a novel Streptococcus thermophilus locus, CRISPR3, and experimentally demonstrate its ability to integrate novel spacers in response to bacteriophage. Also, we analyze CRISPR diversity and activity across three distinct CRISPR loci in several S. thermophilus strains. We show that both CRISPR repeats and cas genes are locus specific and functionally coupled. A total of 124 strains were studied, and 109 unique spacer arrangements were observed across the three CRISPR loci. Overall, 3,626 spacers were analyzed, including 2,829 for CRISPR1 (782 unique), 173 for CRISPR2 (16 unique), and 624 for CRISPR3 (154 unique). Sequence analysis of the spacers revealed homology and identity to phage sequences (77%), plasmid sequences (16%), and S. thermophilus chromosomal sequences (7%). Polymorphisms were observed for the CRISPR repeats, CRISPR spacers, cas genes, CRISPR motif, locus architecture, and specific sequence content. Interestingly, CRISPR loci evolved both via polarized addition of novel spacers after exposure to foreign genetic elements and via internal deletion of spacers. We hypothesize that the level of diversity is correlated with relative CRISPR activity and propose that the activity is highest for CRISPR1, followed by CRISPR3, while CRISPR2 may be degenerate. Globally, the dynamic nature of CRISPR loci might prove valuable for typing and comparative analyses of strains and microbial populations. Also, CRISPRs provide critical insights into the relationships between prokaryotes and their environments, notably the coevolution of host and viral genomes.
Lactobacillus gasseri ATCC 33323, Lactobacillus salivarius subsp. salivarius UCC 118, and Lactobacillus casei ATCC 334 contain one (LgaI), four (Sal1, Sal2, Sal3, Sal4), and one (Lca1) distinguishable prophage sequences, respectively. Sequence analysis revealed that LgaI, Lca1, Sal1, and Sal2 prophages belong to the group of Sfi11-like pac site and cos site Siphoviridae, respectively. Phylogenetic investigation of these newly described prophage sequences revealed that they have not followed an evolutionary development similar to that of their bacterial hosts and that they show a high degree of diversity, even within a species. The attachment sites were determined for all these prophage elements; LgaI as well as Sal1 integrates in tRNA genes, while prophage Sal2 integrates in a predicted arginino-succinate lyase-encoding gene. In contrast, Lca1 and the Sal3 and Sal4 prophage remnants are integrated in noncoding regions in the L. casei ATCC 334 and L. salivarius UCC 118 genomes. Northern analysis showed that large parts of the prophage genomes are transcriptionally silent and that transcription is limited to genome segments located near the attachment site. Finally, pulsed-field gel electrophoresis followed by Southern blot hybridization with specific prophage probes indicates that these prophage sequences are narrowly distributed within lactobacilli.
Freezing and lyophilization are common methods used for preservation and storage of microorganisms during the production of concentrated starter cultures destined for industrial fermentations or product formulations. The compatible solute trehalose has been widely reported to protect bacterial, yeast and animal cells against a variety of environmental stresses, particularly freezing and dehydration. Analysis of the Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM genome revealed a putative trehalose utilization locus consisting of a transcriptional regulator, treR; a trehalose phosphoenolpyruvate transferase system (PTS) transporter, treB; and a trehalose-6-phosphate hydrolase, treC. The objective of this study was to characterize the tre locus in L. acidophilus and determine whether or not intracellular uptake of trehalose contributes to cryoprotection. Cells subjected to repeated freezing and thawing cycles were monitored for survival in the presence of various concentrations of trehalose. At 20% trehalose a 2-log increase in survival was observed. The trehalose PTS transporter and trehalose hydrolase were disrupted by targeted plasmid insertions. The resulting mutants were unable to grow on trehalose, indicating that both trehalose transport into the cell via a PTS and hydrolysis via a trehalose-6-phosphate hydrolase were necessary for trehalose fermentation. Trehalose uptake was found to be significantly reduced in the transporter mutant but unaffected in the hydrolase mutant. Additionally, the cryoprotective effect of trehalose was reduced in these mutants, suggesting that intracellular transport and hydrolysis contribute significantly to cryoprotection.
Six bacteriophages active against Leuconostoc fallax strains were isolated from industrial sauerkraut fermentation brines. These phages were characterized as to host range, morphology, structural proteins, and genome fingerprint. They were exclusively lytic against the species L. fallax and had different host ranges among the strains of this species tested. Morphologically, three of the phages were assigned to the family Siphoviridae, and the three others were assigned to the family Myoviridae. Major capsid proteins detected by electrophoresis were distinct for each of the two morphotypes. Restriction fragment length polymorphism analysis and randomly amplified polymorphic DNA fingerprinting showed that all six phages were genetically distinct. These results revealed for the first time the existence of bacteriophages that are active against L. fallax and confirmed the presence and diversity of bacteriophages in a sauerkraut fermentation. Since a variety of L. fallax strains have been shown to be present in sauerkraut fermentation, bacteriophages active against L. fallax are likely to contribute to the microbial ecology of sauerkraut fermentation and could be responsible for some of the variability observed in this type of fermentation.
Lactic acid bacterial strains were isolated from brines sampled after 7 days of an industrial sauerkraut fermentation, and six strains were selected on the basis of susceptibility to bacteriophages. Bacterial growth in cabbage juice was monitored, and the fermentation end products were identified, quantified, and compared to those of Leuconostoc mesenteroides. Identification by biochemical fingerprinting, endonuclease digestion of the 16S-23S intergenic transcribed spacer region, and sequencing of variable regions V1 and V2 of the 16S rRNA gene indicated that the six selected sauerkraut isolates were Leuconostoc fallax strains. Random amplification of polymorphic DNA fingerprints indicated that the strains were distinct from one another. The growth and fermentation patterns of the L. fallax isolates were highly similar to those of L. mesenteroides. The final pH of cabbage juice fermentation was 3.6, and the main fermentation end products were lactic acid, acetic acid, and mannitol for both species. However, none of the L. fallax strains exhibited the malolactic reaction, which is characteristic of most L. mesenteroides strains. These results indicated that in addition to L. mesenteroides, a variety of L. fallax strains may be present in the heterofermentative stage of sauerkraut fermentation. The microbial ecology of sauerkraut fermentation appears to be more complex than previously indicated, and the prevalence and roles of L. fallax require further investigation.