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1.  Phage-Induced Expression of CRISPR-Associated Proteins Is Revealed by Shotgun Proteomics in Streptococcus thermophilus 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(5):e38077.
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.
PMCID: PMC3364186  PMID: 22666452
2.  The fast milk acidifying phenotype of Streptococcus thermophilus can be acquired by natural transformation of the genomic island encoding the cell-envelope proteinase PrtS 
Microbial Cell Factories  2011;10(Suppl 1):S21.
In industrial fermentation processes, the rate of milk acidification by Streptococcus thermophilus is of major technological importance. The cell-envelope proteinase PrtS was previously shown to be a key determinant of the milk acidification activity in this species. The PrtS enzyme is tightly anchored to the cell wall via a mechanism involving the typical sortase A (SrtA) and initiates the breakdown of milk casein into small oligopeptides. The presence or absence of PrtS divides the S. thermophilus strains into two phenotypic groups i.e. the slow and the fast acidifying strains. The aim of this study was to improve the milk acidification rate of slow S. thermophilus strains, and hence optimise the fermentation process of dairy products.
In the present work, we developed for the first time a strategy based on natural transformation to confer the rapid acidification phenotype to slow acidifying starter strains of S. thermophilus. First, we established by gene disruption that (i) prtS, encoding the cell-envelope proteinase, is a key factor responsible for rapid milk acidification in fast acidifying strains, and that (ii) srtA, encoding sortase A, is not absolutely required to express the PrtS activity. Second, a 15-kb PCR product encompassing the prtS genomic island was transfered by natural transformation using the competence-inducing peptide in three distinct prtS-defective genetic backgrounds having or not a truncated sortase A gene. We showed that in all cases the milk acidification rate of transformants was significantly increased, reaching a level similar to that of wild-type fast acidifying strains. Furthermore, it appeared that the prtS-encoded activity does not depend on the prtS copy number or on its chromosomal integration locus.
We have successfully used natural competence to transfer the prtS locus encoding the cell-envelope proteinase in three slow acidifying strains of S. thermophilus, allowing their conversion into fast acidifying derivatives. The efficient protocol developed in this article will provide the dairy industry with novel and optimised S. thermophilus starter strains.
PMCID: PMC3231928  PMID: 21995822
3.  The Streptococcus thermophilus CRISPR/Cas system provides immunity in Escherichia coli 
Nucleic Acids Research  2011;39(21):9275-9282.
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.
PMCID: PMC3241640  PMID: 21813460
4.  Development of a Versatile Procedure Based on Natural Transformation for Marker-Free Targeted Genetic Modification in Streptococcus thermophilus▿  
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2010;76(23):7870-7877.
A versatile natural transformation protocol was established for and successfully applied to 18 of the 19 Streptococcus thermophilus strains tested. The efficiency of the protocol enables the use of in vitro-amplified mutagenesis fragments to perform deletion or insertion of large genetic fragments. Depending on the phenotype linked to the mutation, markerless mutants can be selected either in two steps, i.e., resistance marker insertion and excision using an adapted Cre-loxP system, or in one step using a powerful positive screening procedure as illustrated here for histidine prototrophy.
PMCID: PMC2988589  PMID: 20935129
5.  A Novel Pheromone Quorum-Sensing System Controls the Development of Natural Competence in Streptococcus thermophilus and Streptococcus salivarius▿ †  
Journal of Bacteriology  2009;192(5):1444-1454.
In streptococcal species, the key step of competence development is the transcriptional induction of comX, which encodes the alternative sigma factor σX, which positively regulates genes necessary for DNA transformation. In Streptococcus species belonging to the mitis and mutans groups, induction of comX relies on the activation of a three-component system consisting of a secreted pheromone, a histidine kinase, and a response regulator. In Streptococcus thermophilus, a species belonging to the salivarius group, the oligopeptide transporter Ami is essential for comX expression under competence-inducing conditions. This suggests a different regulation pathway of competence based on the production and reimportation of a signal peptide. The objective of our work was to identify the main actors involved in the early steps of comX induction in S. thermophilus LMD-9. Using a transcriptomic approach, four highly induced early competence operons were identified. Among them, we found a Rgg-like regulator (Ster_0316) associated with a nonannotated gene encoding a 24-amino-acid hydrophobic peptide (Shp0316). Through genetic deletions, we showed that these two genes are essential for comX induction. Moreover, addition to the medium of synthetic peptides derived from the C-terminal part of Shp0316 restored comX induction and transformation of a Shp0316-deficient strain. These peptides also induced competence in S. thermophilus and Streptococcus salivarius strains that are poorly transformable or not transformable. Altogether, our results show that Ster_0316 and Shp0316, renamed ComRS, are the two members of a novel quorum-sensing system responsible for comX induction in species from the salivarius group, which differs from the classical phosphorelay three-component system identified previously in streptococci.
PMCID: PMC2820839  PMID: 20023010
6.  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
7.  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
8.  Genomic Organization and Molecular Analysis of Virulent Bacteriophage 2972 Infecting an Exopolysaccharide-Producing Streptococcus thermophilus Strain 
The Streptococcus thermophilus virulent pac-type phage 2972 was isolated from a yogurt made in France in 1999. It is a representative of several phages that have emerged with the industrial use of the exopolysaccharide-producing S. thermophilus strain RD534. The genome of phage 2972 has 34,704 bp with an overall G+C content of 40.15%, making it the shortest S. thermophilus phage genome analyzed so far. Forty-four open reading frames (ORFs) encoding putative proteins of 40 or more amino acids were identified, and bioinformatic analyses led to the assignment of putative functions to 23 ORFs. Comparative genomic analysis of phage 2972 with the six other sequenced S. thermophilus phage genomes confirmed that the replication module is conserved and that cos- and pac-type phages have distinct structural and packaging genes. Two group I introns were identified in the genome of 2972. They interrupted the genes coding for the putative endolysin and the terminase large subunit. Phage mRNA splicing was demonstrated for both introns, and the secondary structures were predicted. Eight structural proteins were also identified by N-terminal sequencing and/or matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization—time-of-flight mass spectrometry. Detailed analysis of the putative minor tail proteins ORF19 and ORF21 as well as the putative receptor-binding protein ORF20 showed the following interesting features: (i) ORF19 is a hybrid protein, because it displays significant identity with both pac- and cos-type phages; (ii) ORF20 is unique; and (iii) a protein similar to ORF21 of 2972 was also found in the structure of the cos-type phage DT1, indicating that this structural protein is present in both S. thermophilus phage groups. The implications of these findings for phage classification are discussed.
PMCID: PMC1169050  PMID: 16000821
9.  Identification of a Replicon from pTXL1, a Small Cryptic Plasmid from Leuconostoc mesenteroides subsp. mesenteroides Y110, and Development of a Food-Grade Vector 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2002;68(12):6451-6456.
A 2,665-bp cryptic plasmid, pTXL1, isolated from Leuconostoc mesenteroides subsp. mesenteroides Y110 was identified. This plasmid harbors a replicon localized on a 1,300-bp fragment. Two observations suggested that pTXL1 does not belong to rolling-circle replication (RCR)-type plasmids and most likely replicates via a theta mechanism. These hypotheses are supported by the observation that no detectable single-stranded intermediate was found for the replicon and that, unlike in RCR-type plasmids, the pTXL1 replicon sequence lacks an open reading frame encoding a replicase. The small-sized pTXL1 plasmid is stable and, according to its origin, can be considered in the “generally recognized as safe” category. Its ability to replicate in several lactic acid bacteria was exploited to develop a vector producing mesentericin Y105, a class II anti-Listeria bacteriocin. With this new vector, a recombinant industrial Leuconostoc cremoris strain able to produce mesentericin Y105 was constructed.
PMCID: PMC134450  PMID: 12450877

Results 1-9 (9)