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1.  Phage Response to CRISPR-Encoded Resistance in Streptococcus thermophilus▿  
Journal of Bacteriology  2007;190(4):1390-1400.
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.
PMCID: PMC2238228  PMID: 18065545
2.  Diversity, Activity, and Evolution of CRISPR Loci in Streptococcus thermophilus▿ † 
Journal of Bacteriology  2007;190(4):1401-1412.
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.
PMCID: PMC2238196  PMID: 18065539
3.  Biodiversity and Classification of Lactococcal Phages 
For this study, an in-depth review of the classification of Lactococcus lactis phages was performed. Reference phages as well as unclassified phages from international collections were analyzed by stringent DNA-DNA hybridization studies, electron microscopy observations, and sequence analyses. A new classification scheme for lactococcal phages is proposed that reduces the current 12 groups to 8. However, two new phages (Q54 and 1706), which are unrelated to known lactococcal phages, may belong to new emerging groups. The multiplex PCR method currently used for the rapid identification of phages from the three main lactococcal groups (936, c2, and P335) was improved and tested against the other groups, none of which gave a PCR product, confirming the specificity of this detection tool. However, this method does not detect all members of the highly diverse P335 group. The lactococcal phages characterized here were deposited in the Félix d'Hérelle Reference Center for Bacterial Viruses and represent a highly diverse viral community from the dairy environment.
PMCID: PMC1489595  PMID: 16751549
5.  Effect of Exopolysaccharides on Phage-Host Interactions in Lactococcus lactis 
In this study, we report that Lactococcus lactis strains producing exopolysaccharides (EPS) are sensitive to virulent phages. Eight distinct lytic phages (Q61 to Q68) specifically infecting Eps+ strains were isolated in 47 buttermilk samples obtained from 13 North American factories. The eight phages were classified within the 936 species by the multiplex PCR method, indicating that these phages are not fundamentally distinct from those infecting Eps− L. lactis strains. The host range of these phages was determined with 19 Lactococcus strains, including 7 Eps+ and 12 Eps− cultures. Three phages (Q62, Q63, and Q64) attacked only the Eps+ strain SMQ-419, whereas the five other phages (Q61, Q65, Q66, Q67, and Q68) infected only the Eps+ strain SMQ-420. The five other Eps+ strains (H414, MLT2, MLT3, SMQ-461, and SMQ-575) as well as the 12 Eps− strains were insensitive to these phages. The monosaccharide composition of the polymer produced by the seven Eps+ strains was determined. The EPS produced by strains MLT3, SMQ-419, and SMQ-575 contained glucose, galactose, and rhamnose. The EPS fabricated by H414 contained only galactose. The EPS made by MLT2, SMQ-420, and SMQ-461 contained glucose and galactose. These findings indicate that the sugar composition of the EPS has no effect on phage sensitivity. The plasmid encoding the eps operon was cured from the two phage-sensitive strains. The cured derivatives were still phage sensitive, which indicates that EPS are not necessary for phage infection. Phage adsorption assays showed that the production of EPS does not confer a significant phage resistance phenotype.
PMCID: PMC124071  PMID: 12200288

Results 1-5 (5)