We investigate the role of the C-terminal coiled coil of the secondary proline porter ProP in contributing to Cronobacter sakazakii osmotolerance.
The extended C-terminal domain of ProP1 (encoded by ESA_02131) was spliced onto the truncated C-terminal end of ProP2 (encoded by ESA_01706); creating a chimeric protein (ProPc) which exhibits increased osmotolerance relative to the wild type.
It appears that the C-terminal coiled coil domain tunes ProP at low osmolality, whereas ProP transporters lacking the coiled coil domain are more active at a higher osmolality range.
Bacteriophage vB_EcoM_112 (formerly e11/2) is an Escherichia coli phage with specificity for the O157:H7 serotype. The vB_EcoM_112 genome sequence shares high degrees of similarity with the phage T4 genome sequence.
Bacteriophages encode endolysins to lyse their host cell and allow escape of their progeny. Endolysins are also active against Gram-positive bacteria when applied from the outside and are thus attractive anti-bacterial agents. LysK, an endolysin from staphylococcal phage K, contains an N-terminal cysteine-histidine dependent amido-hydrolase/peptidase domain (CHAPK), a central amidase domain and a C-terminal SH3b cell wall-binding domain. CHAPK cleaves bacterial peptidoglycan between the tetra-peptide stem and the penta-glycine bridge.
The CHAPK domain of LysK was crystallized and high-resolution diffraction data was collected both from a native protein crystal and a methylmercury chloride derivatized crystal. The anomalous signal contained in the derivative data allowed the location of heavy atom sites and phase determination. The resulting structures were completed, refined and analyzed. The presence of calcium and zinc ions in the structure was confirmed by X-ray fluorescence emission spectroscopy. Zymogram analysis was performed on the enzyme and selected site-directed mutants.
The structure of CHAPK revealed a papain-like topology with a hydrophobic cleft, where the catalytic triad is located. Ordered buffer molecules present in this groove may mimic the peptidoglycan substrate. When compared to previously solved CHAP domains, CHAPK contains an additional lobe in its N-terminal domain, with a structural calcium ion, coordinated by residues Asp45, Asp47, Tyr49, His51 and Asp56. The presence of a zinc ion in the active site was also apparent, coordinated by the catalytic residue Cys54 and a possible substrate analogue. Site-directed mutagenesis was used to demonstrate that residues involved in calcium binding and of the proposed active site were important for enzyme activity.
The high-resolution structure of the CHAPK domain of LysK was determined, suggesting the location of the active site, the substrate-binding groove and revealing the presence of a structurally important calcium ion. A zinc ion was found more loosely bound. Based on the structure, we propose a possible reaction mechanism. Future studies will be aimed at co-crystallizing CHAPK with substrate analogues and elucidating its role in the complete LysK protein. This, in turn, may lead to the design of site-directed mutants with altered activity or substrate specificity.
Bacteriophage; Calcium; Crystallography; Endolysin; Peptidoglycan; Protease; Staphylococcus; Zinc
Bacteria respond to elevated osmolality by the accumulation of a range of low molecular weight molecules, known as compatible solutes (owing to their compatibility with the cells' normal physiology at high internal concentrations). The neonatal pathogen Cronobacter sakazakii is uniquely osmotolerant, surviving in powdered infant formula (PIF) which typically has a water activity (aw) of 0.2 – inhospitable to most micro-organisms. Mortality rates of up to 80% in infected infants have been recorded making C. sakazakii a serious cause for concern. In silico analysis of the C. sakazakii BAA-894 genome revealed seven copies of the osmolyte uptake system ProP. Herein, we test the physiological role of each of these homologues following heterologous expression against an osmosensitive Escherichia coli host.
Osmolytes; Proline; Osmotolerance; Stress; Cronobacter
Listeria monocytogenes is a virulent food-borne pathogen most often associated with the consumption of “ready-to-eat” foods. The organism is a common contaminant of food processing plants where it may persist for extended periods of time. A commonly used approach for the control of Listeria monocytogenes in the processing environment is the application of biocides such as quaternary ammonium compounds. In this study, the transcriptomic response of a persistent strain of L. monocytogenes (strain 6179) on exposure to a sub-lethal concentration of the quaternary ammonium compound benzethonium chloride (BZT) was assessed. Using RNA-Seq, gene expression levels were quantified by sequencing the transcriptome of L. monocytogenes 6179 in the presence (4 ppm) and absence of BZT, and mapping each data set to the sequenced genome of strain 6179. Hundreds of differentially expressed genes were identified, and subsequent analysis suggested that many biological processes such as peptidoglycan biosynthesis, bacterial chemotaxis and motility, and carbohydrate uptake, were involved in the response of L. monocyotogenes to the presence of BZT. The information generated in this study further contributes to our understanding of the response of bacteria to environmental stress. In addition, this study demonstrates the importance of using the bacterium's own genome as a reference when analysing RNA-Seq data.
Listeria monocytogenes; RNA-Seq; benzethonium chloride; transcriptome; gene expression; biocide stress
Lactococci isolated from non-dairy sources have been found to possess enhanced metabolic activity when compared to dairy strains. These capabilities may be harnessed through the use of these strains as starter or adjunct cultures to produce more diverse flavor profiles in cheese and other dairy products. To understand the interactions between these organisms and the phages that infect them, a number of phages were isolated against lactococcal strains of non-dairy origin. One such phage, ΦL47, was isolated from a sewage sample using the grass isolate L. lactis ssp. cremoris DPC6860 as a host. Visualization of phage virions by transmission electron microscopy established that this phage belongs to the family Siphoviridae and possesses a long tail fiber, previously unseen in dairy lactococcal phages. Determination of the lytic spectrum revealed a broader than expected host range, with ΦL47 capable of infecting 4 industrial dairy strains, including ML8, HP and 310, and 3 additional non-dairy isolates. Whole genome sequencing of ΦL47 revealed a dsDNA genome of 128, 546 bp, making it the largest sequenced lactococcal phage to date. In total, 190 open reading frames (ORFs) were identified, and comparative analysis revealed that the predicted products of 117 of these ORFs shared greater than 50% amino acid identity with those of L. lactis phage Φ949, a phage isolated from cheese whey. Despite their different ecological niches, the genomic content and organization of ΦL47 and Φ949 are quite similar, with both containing 4 gene clusters oriented in different transcriptional directions. Other features that distinguish ΦL47 from Φ949 and other lactococcal phages, in addition to the presence of the tail fiber and the genome length, include a low GC content (32.5%) and a high number of predicted tRNA genes (8). Comparative genome analysis supports the conclusion that ΦL47 is a new member of the 949 lactococcal phage group which currently includes the dairy Φ949.
Lactococcus lactis; non-dairy; phage; tail fiber; genome
The human intestinal microbiota is one of the most densely populated ecosystems on Earth, containing up to 1013 bacteria/g and in some respects can be considered an organ itself given its role in human health. Bacteriophages (phages) are the most abundant replicating entities on the planet and thrive wherever their bacterial hosts exist. They undoubtedly influence the dominant microbial populations in many ecosystems including the human intestine. Within this setting, lysogeny appears to be the preferred life cycle, presumably due to nutrient limitations and lack of suitable hosts protected in biofilms, hence the predator/prey dynamic observed in many ecosystems is absent. On the other hand, free virulent phages in the gut are more common among sufferers of intestinal diseases and have been shown to increase with antibiotic usage. Many of these phages evolve from prophages of intestinal bacteria and emerge under conditions where their bacterial hosts encounter stress suggesting that prophages can significantly alter the microbial community composition. Based on these observations, we propose the “community shuffling” model which hypothesizes that prophage induction contributes to intestinal dysbiosis by altering the ratio of symbionts to pathobionts, enabling pathobiont niche reoccupation. The consequences of the increased phage load on the mammalian immune system are also addressed. While this is an area of intestinal biology which has received little attention, this review assembles evidence from the literature which supports the role of phages as one of the biological drivers behind the composition of the gut microbiota.
gut; microbiota; bacteriophages; phages; prophages; induction; community shuffling
It is well documented that open reading frames containing high GC content show poor expression in A+T rich hosts. Specifically, G+C-rich codon usage is a limiting factor in heterologous expression of Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis (MAP) proteins using Lactobacillus salivarius. However, re-engineering opening reading frames through synonymous substitutions can offset codon bias and greatly enhance MAP protein production in this host. In this report, we demonstrate that codon-usage manipulation of MAP2121c can enhance the heterologous expression of the major membrane protein (MMP), analogous to the form in which it is produced natively by MAP bacilli. When heterologously over-expressed, antigenic determinants were preserved in synthetic MMP proteins as shown by monoclonal antibody mediated ELISA. Moreover, MMP is a membrane protein in MAP, which is also targeted to the cellular surface of recombinant L. salivarius at levels comparable to MAP. Additionally, we previously engineered MAP3733c (encoding MptD) and show herein that MptD displays the tendency to associate with the cytoplasmic membrane boundary under confocal microscopy and the intracellularly accumulated protein selectively adheres to the MptD-specific bacteriophage fMptD. This work demonstrates there is potential for L. salivarius as a viable antigen delivery vehicle for MAP, which may provide an effective mucosal vaccine against Johne's disease.
MAP antigens; MptD; MMP; codon optimization; expression host; paratuberculosis; MAP vaccine; Johne's disease
A series of twenty substituted 2-hydroxy-3-[(2-aryloxyethyl)amino]propyl 4-[(alkoxycarbonyl)amino]benzoates were prepared and characterized. As similar compounds have been described as potential antimycobacterials, primary in vitro screening of the synthesized carbamates was also performed against two mycobacterial species. 2-Hydroxy-3-[2-(2,6-dimethoxyphenoxy)ethylamino]-propyl 4-(butoxycarbonylamino)benzoate hydrochloride, 2-hydroxy-3-[2-(4-methoxyphenoxy)ethylamino]-propyl 4-(butoxycarbonylamino)benzoate hydrochloride, and 2-hydroxy-3-[2-(2-methoxyphenoxy)ethylamino]-propyl 4-(butoxycarbonylamino)benzoate hydrochloride showed higher activity against M. avium subsp. paratuberculosis and M. intracellulare than the standards ciprofloxacin, isoniazid, or pyrazinamide. Cytotoxicity assay of effective compounds was performed using the human monocytic leukaemia THP-1 cell line. Compounds with predicted amphiphilic properties were also tested for their effects on the rate of photosynthetic electron transport (PET) in spinach (Spinacia oleracea L.) chloroplasts. All butyl derivatives significantly stimulated the rate of PET, indicating that the compounds can induce conformational changes in thylakoid membranes resulting in an increase of their permeability and so causing uncoupling of phosphorylation from electron transport.
A total of 220 lactic acid bacteria isolates were screened for antifungal activity using Aspergillus fumigatus and Aspergillus niger as the target strains. Four Lactobacillus strains exhibited strong inhibitory activity on agar surfaces. All four were also identified as having strong inhibitory activity against the human pathogenic fungi Microsporum canis, Microsporum gypseum and Epidermophyton floccosum. One of the four lactobacilli, namely Lb. reuteri ee1p exhibited the most inhibition against dermatophytes. Cell-free culture supernatants of Lb. reuteri ee1p and of the non-antifungal Lb. reuteri M13 were freeze-dried and used to access and compare antifungal activity in agar plate assays and microtiter plate assays. Addition of the Lb. reuteri ee1p freeze-dried cell-free supernatant powder into the agar medium at concentrations greater than 2% inhibited all fungal colony growth. Addition of the powder at 5% to liquid cultures caused complete inhibition of fungal growth on the basis of turbidity. Freeze-dried supernatant of the non-antifungal Lb. reuteri M13 at the same concentrations had a much lesser effect. As Lb. reuteri M13 is very similar to the antifungal strain ee1p in terms of growth rate and final pH in liquid culture, and as it has little antifungal activity, it is clear that other antifungal compounds must be specifically produced (or produced at higher levels) by the anti-dermatophyte strain Lb. reuteri ee1p. Reuterin was undetectable in all four antifungal strains. The cell free supernatant of Lb. reuteri ee1p was analyzed by LC-FTMS using an Accela LC coupled to an LTQ Orbitrap XL mass spectrometer. The high mass accuracy spectrum produced by compounds in the Lb. reuteri ee1p strain was compared with both a multianalyte chromatogram and individual spectra of standard anti-fungal compounds, which are known to be produced by lactic acid bacteria. Ten antifungal metabolites were detected.
Epidermophyton floccosum; antifungal; lactic acid bacteria; Microsporum canis; Microsporum gypseum
New antibacterial agents are urgently needed for the elimination of biofilm-forming bacteria that are highly resistant to traditional antimicrobial agents. Proliferation of such bacteria can lead to significant economic losses in the agri-food sector. This study demonstrates the potential of the bacteriophage-derived peptidase, CHAPK, as a biocidal agent for the rapid disruption of biofilm-forming staphylococci, commonly associated with bovine mastitis. Purified CHAPK applied to biofilms of Staphylococcus aureus DPC5246 completely eliminated the staphylococcal biofilms within 4 h. In addition, CHAPK was able to prevent biofilm formation by this strain. The CHAPK lysin also reduced S. aureus in a skin decolonization model. Our data demonstrates the potential of CHAPK as a biocidal agent for prevention and treatment of biofilm-associated staphylococcal infections or as a decontaminating agent in the food and healthcare sectors.
Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a common cause of infection in the lungs of patients with cystic fibrosis (CF). In addition, biofilm formation and antibiotic resistance of Pseudomonas are major problems that can complicate antibiotic therapy. We evaluated the efficacy of using bacteriophages to kill the pathogen in both biofilms and in the murine lung. We isolated and characterized two phages from a local wastewater treatment plant, a myovirus (ϕNH-4) and a podovirus (ϕMR299-2). Both phages were active against clinical isolates of P. aeruginosa. Together, the two phages killed all 9 clinical isolate strains tested, including both mucoid and nonmucoid strains. An equal mixture of the two phages was effective in killing P. aeruginosa NH57388A (mucoid) and P. aeruginosa MR299 (nonmucoid) strains when growing as a biofilm on a cystic fibrosis bronchial epithelial CFBE41o- cell line. Phage titers increased almost 100-fold over a 24-h period, confirming replication of the phage. Furthermore, the phage mix was also effective in killing the pathogen in murine lungs containing 1 × 107 to 2 × 107
P. aeruginosa. Pseudomonas was effectively cleared (reduced by a magnitude of at least 3 to 4 log units) from murine lungs in 6 h. Our study demonstrates the efficacy of these two phages in killing clinical Pseudomonas isolates in the murine lung or as a biofilm on a pulmonary cell line and supports the growing interest in using phage therapy for the control and treatment of multidrug-resistant Pseudomonas lung infections in CF patients.
Given the rise in antibiotic resistance, nonantibiotic therapies are required for the treatment of infection. This is particularly true for the treatment of Pseudomonas infection in patients with cystic fibrosis. We have identified two bacterial viruses (bacteriophages) that can kill Pseudomonas growing on human lung cells and in an animal model of lung infection. The use of bacteriophages is particularly appropriate because the killing agent can replicate on the target cell, generating fresh copies of the bacteriophage. Thus, in the presence of a target, the killing agent multiplies. By using two bacteriophages we can reduce the risk of resistant colonies developing at the site of infection. Bacteriophage therapy is an exciting field, and this study represents an important demonstration of efficacy in validated infection models.
The aim of this study was to use comparative modeling to predict the three-dimensional structure of the CHAPK protein (cysteine, histidine-dependent amidohydrolase/peptidase domain of the LysK endolysin, derived from bacteriophage K). Iterative PSI-BLAST searches against the Protein Data Bank (PDB) and nonredundant (nr) databases were used to populate a multiple alignment for analysis using the T-Coffee Expresso server. A consensus Maximum Parsimony phylogenetic tree with a bootstrap analysis setting of 1,000 replicates was constructed using MEGA4. Structural templates relevant to our target (CHAPK) were identified, processed in Expresso and used to generate a 3D model in the alignment mode of SWISS-MODEL. These templates were also processed in the I-TASSER web server. A Staphylococcus saprophyticus CHAP domain protein, 2K3A, was identified as the structural template in both servers. The I-TASSER server generated the CHAPK model with the best bond geometries when analyzed using PROCHECK and the most logical organization of the structure. The predicted 3D model indicates that CHAPK has a papain-like fold. Circular dichroism spectropolarimetry also indicated that CHAPK has an αβ fold, which is consistent with the model presented. The putative active site maintained a highly conserved Cys54-His117-Glu134 charge relay and an oxyanion hole residue Asn136. The residue triplet, Cys-His-Glu, is known to be a viable proteolytic triad in which we predict the Cys residue is used in a nucleophilic attack on peptide bonds at a specific site in the pentaglycine cross bridge of staphylococcal cell wall peptidoglycan. Use of comparative modeling has allowed approximation of the 3D structure of CHAPK giving information on the structure and an insight into the binding and active site of the catalytic domain. This may facilitate its development as an alternative antibacterial agent.
bacteriophage; CHAP; endolysin; in silico; peptidase; staphylococcus
This study investigated the effect of bacteriophages (phages) e11/2 and e4/1c against Escherichia coli O157:H7 in an ex vivo rumen model and in cattle in vivo. In the ex vivo rumen model, samples were inoculated with either 103 or 106 CFU/ml inoculum of E. coli O157:H7 and challenged separately with each bacteriophage. In the presence of phage e11/2, the numbers of E. coli O157:H7 bacteria were significantly (P < 0.05) reduced to below the limit of detection within 1 h. Phage e4/1c significantly (P < 0.05) reduced E. coli O157:H7 numbers within 2 h of incubation, but the number of surviving E. coli O157:H7 bacteria then remained unchanged over a further 22-h incubation period. The ability of a phage cocktail of e11/2 and e4/1c to reduce the fecal shedding of E. coli O157:H7 in experimentally inoculated cattle was then investigated in two cattle trials. Cattle (yearlings, n = 20 for trial one; adult fistulated cattle, n = 2 for trial two) were orally inoculated with 1010 CFU of E. coli O157:H7. Animals (n = 10 for trial one; n = 1 for trial two) were dosed daily with a bacteriophage cocktail of 1011 PFU for 3 days postinoculation. E. coli O157:H7 and phage numbers in fecal and/or rumen samples were determined over 7 days postinoculation. E. coli O157:H7 numbers rapidly declined in all animals within 24 to 48 h; however, there was no significant difference (P > 0.05) between the numbers of E. coli O157:H7 bacteria shed by the phage-treated or control animals. Phages were recovered from the rumen but not from the feces of the adult fistulated animal in trial two but were recovered from the feces of the yearling animals in trial one. While the results from the rumen model suggest that phages are effective in the rumen, further research is required to improve the antimicrobial effectiveness of phages for the elimination of E. coli O157:H7 in vivo.
With the increasing worldwide prevalence of antibiotic resistant bacteria, bacteriophage endolysins (lysins) represent a very promising novel alternative class of antibacterial in the fight against infectious disease. Lysins are phage-encoded peptidoglycan hydrolases which, when applied exogenously (as purified recombinant proteins) to Gram-positive bacteria, bring about rapid lysis and death of the bacterial cell. A number of studies have recently demonstrated the strong potential of these enzymes in human and veterinary medicine to control and treat pathogens on mucosal surfaces and in systemic infections. They also have potential in diagnostics and detection, bio-defence, elimination of food pathogens and control of phytopathogens. This review discusses the extensive research on recombinant bacteriophage lysins in the context of antibacterials, and looks forward to future development and potential.
lysin; endolysin; bacteriophage; pathogen; antibacterial; infection; lytic; enzyme
The endolysin LysK derived from staphylococcal phage K has previously been shown to have two enzymatic domains, one of which is an N-acetylmuramoyl-L-alanine amidase and the other a cysteine/histidine-dependant amidohydrolase/peptidase designated CHAPk. The latter, when cloned as a single-domain truncated enzyme, is conveniently overexpressed in a highly-soluble form. This enzyme was shown to be highly active in vitro against live cell suspensions of S. aureus. In the current study, the IVIS imaging system was used to demonstrate the effective elimination of a lux labeled S. aureus from the nares of BALB/c mice.
Staphylococcus; decolonization; lysin; bacteriophage; nasal
Nisin A is the most widely characterized lantibiotic investigated to date. It represents one of the many antimicrobial peptides which have been the focus of much interest as potential therapeutic agents. This has resulted in the search for novel lantibiotics and more commonly, the engineering of novel variants from existing peptides with a view to increasing their activity, stability and solubility.
The aim of this study was to compare the activities of nisin A and novel bioengineered hinge derivatives, nisin S, nisin T and nisin V. The microtitre alamar blue assay (MABA) was employed to identify the enhanced activity of these novel variants against M. tuberculosis (H37Ra), M. kansasii (CIT11/06), M. avium subsp. hominissuis (CIT05/03) and M. avium subsp. paratuberculosis (MAP) (ATCC 19698). All variants displayed greater anti-mycobacterial activity than nisin A. Nisin S was the most potent variant against M. tuberculosis, M. kansasii and M. avium subsp. hominissuis, retarding growth by a maximum of 29% when compared with nisin A. Sub-species variations of inhibition were also observed with nisin S reducing growth of Mycobacterium avium subsp. hominissuis by 28% and Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis by 19% and nisin T contrastingly reducing growth of MAP by 27% and MAC by 16%.
Nisin S, nisin T and nisin V are potent novel anti-mycobacterial compounds, which have the capacity to be further modified, potentially generating compounds with additional beneficial characteristics. This is the first report to demonstrate an enhancement of efficacy by any bioengineered bacteriocin against mycobacteria.
mycobacteria; nisin variants; alamar blue; peptide engineering; lantibiotic; bacteriocin
Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis (MAP) causes a chronic gastroenteritis affecting many species. Johne's disease is one of the most widespread and economically important disease of ruminants. Since 1992 and the opening of the European market, the exposure and the transmission of MAP in cattle herds considerably increased. Improvements in diagnostic strategies for Ireland and elsewhere are urgently required. In total, 290 cattle from seven Irish herds with either a history or a strong likelihood of paratuberculosis infection were selected by a veterinary team over 2 years. Faecal samples (290) were collected and screened for MAP by a conventional culture method and two PCR assays. In order to further evaluate the usefulness of molecular testing, a nested PCR was also assessed.
M. paratuberculosis was isolated and cultured from 23 faecal samples (7.9%) on solid medium. From a molecular perspective, 105 faecal samples (36%) were PCR positive for MAP specific DNA. A complete correlation (100%) was observed between the results of both molecular targets (IS900 and ISMAP02). Sensitivity was increased by ~10% with the inclusion of a nested PCR for ISMAP02 (29 further samples were positive). When culturing and PCR were retrospectively compared, every culture positive faecal sample also yielded a PCR positive result for both targets. Alternatively, however not every PCR positive sample (n = 105, 36%) produced a corresponding culture isolate. Interestingly though when analysed collectively at the herd level, the correlation between culture and PCR results was 100% (ie every herd which recorded at least 1 early PCR +ve result later yielded culture positive samples within that herd).
PCR on bovine faecal samples is a fast reliable test and should be applied routinely when screening for MAP within herds suspected of paratuberculosis. Nested PCR increases the threshold limit of detection for MAP DNA by approximately 10% but proved to be problematic in this study. Although slow and impractical, culturing is still regarded as one of the most reliable methods for detecting MAP among infected cattle.
A microtiter alamarBlue assay was adapted and optimized for Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis. Using cell concentrations ranging from 104 to 108 CFU/ml, a minimum incubation time to indicate viability was obtained after 24 h. Rifampin (rifampicin) was used to demonstrate that this method has applications for high-throughput screening against M. avium subsp. paratuberculosis.
A truncated derivative of the phage endolysin LysK containing only the CHAP (cysteine- and histidine-dependent amidohydrolase/peptidase) domain exhibited lytic activity against live clinical staphylococcal isolates, including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. This is the first known report of a truncated phage lysin which retains high lytic activity against live staphylococcal cells.
Insertional inactivation of the plasmid-encoded determinants for Mg2+ and Co2+ transport, orf18/corA, provides a tool for screening recombinant clones in Lactococcus, based on the observation that overexpression of orf18/corA results in cell growth inhibition on certain concentrations of CoCl2. The lacticin 3147 immunity gene, ltnI, was used to insertionally inactivate orf18/corA. The resulting clones were capable of growth on concentrations of CoCl2 that were inhibitory to the parent strain. Since only 3 of 17 lactococcal starters naturally harbor corA, the system has potential as a screen for selecting recombinant lactococcal clones.
Lactococcus lactis DPC4275 is a bacteriocin-producing transconjugant of the industrial starter strain DPC4268. Strain DPC4275 was generated through conjugal transfer by mating DPC4268 with L. lactis MG1363 containing the 60-kb plasmid pMRC01, which encodes the genetic determinants for the lantibiotic lacticin 3147 and for a phage resistance mechanism of the abortive infection type. The many significant applications of this strain prompted a genetic analysis of its apparently unstable bacteriocin-producing phenotype. Increased levels of lacticin 3147 produced by DPC4275 were associated with the appearance of an 80-kb plasmid, designated pMRC02, which was derived from DNA originating from pMRC01 (60 kb) and a resident DPC4268 proteinase plasmid, pMT60 (60 kb). Indeed, pMRC02 was shown to be derived from the insertion of a 17-kb fragment of pMRC01, encompassing the lacticin 3147 operon, into pMT60. The presence of pMRC02 at a high copy number was found to correlate with increased levels of lacticin 3147 in DPC4275 compared to the wild-type containing pMRC01. Subsequent transfer of pMRC02 into the plasmid-free strain MG1363 by electroporation allowed a direct phenotypic comparison with pMRC01, also studied in the MG1363 background. Plasmid pMRC02 displayed phage resistance similar to that by pMRC01, although it was less potent, as demonstrated by a larger plaque size for phage c2 infection of MG1363(pMRC02). While this locus is flanked by IS946 elements, the sequencing of pMT60-pMRC01 junction sites established that this event was unlikely to be insertion sequence mediated and most probably occurred by homologous recombination followed by deletion of most of pMRC01. This was not a random occurrence, as nine other transconjugants investigated were found to have the same junction sites. Such derivatives of commercial strains producing increased levels of bacteriocin could be exploited as protection cultures for food applications.
The bacteriophage resistance plasmid pAH90 (26,490 bp) is a natural cointegrate plasmid formed via homologous recombination between the type I restriction-modification specificity determinants (hsdS) of two smaller lactococcal plasmids, pAH33 (6,159 bp) and pAH82 (20,331 bp), giving rise to a bacteriophage-insensitive mutant following phage challenge (D. O'Sullivan, D. P. Twomey, A. Coffey, C. Hill, G. F. Fitzgerald, and R. P. Ross, Mol. Microbiol. 36:866–876; 2000). In this communication we provide evidence that the recombination event is favored by phage infection. The entire nucleotide sequence of plasmid pAH90 was determined and found to contain 24 open reading frames (ORFs) responsible for phenotypes which include restriction-modification, phage adsorption inhibition, plasmid replication, cadmium resistance, cobalt transport, and conjugative mobilization. The cadmium resistance property, encoded by the cadA gene, which has an associated regulatory gene (cadC), is of particular interest, as it facilitated the selection of pAH90 in other phage-sensitive lactococci after electroporation. In addition, we report the identification of a group II self-splicing intron bounded by two exons which have the capacity to encode a relaxase implicated in conjugation in gram-positive bacteria. The functionality of this intron was evident by demonstrating splicing in vivo. Given that pAH90 encodes potent phage defense systems which act at different stages in the phage lytic cycle, the linkage of these with a food-grade selectable marker on a replicon that can be mobilized among lactococci has significant potential for natural strain improvement for industrial dairy fermentations which are susceptible to phage inhibition.
The ability of lactococcal strains to lyse (and release intracellular enzymes) during cheese manufacture can be a very desirable trait and has been associated with improvement in flavor and acceleration of cheese ripening. Using a laboratory-scale cheese manufacturing assay, the autolytic behavior of 31 strains of Lactococcus lactis was assessed. In general, marked variation was observed between strains with a 20-fold difference between the best and worst lysing strains based on the release of the intracellular enzyme lactate dehydrogenase. In a parallel experiment, the genomes of these strains were examined for the presence of prophage integrase (int) sequences by using conserved primer sequences from known lysogenic phage. Results demonstrated that the lytic behavior of lactococcal starter strains significantly correlates with the presence of prophage sequences. These results highlight not only the contribution of prophage to starter cell lysis but also the potential of PCR as a useful initial screen to assess strains for this important industrial trait.
The plasmid-free Lactococcus lactis subsp. cremoris MG1614 is highly phage sensitive and lacks lactose fermenting ability (Lac) and primary casein degrading ability (Prt). Food grade gene transfer systems were used to sequentially superimpose different phage defense systems on this background, resulting in a gradual increase in resistance to bacteriophage in the derivatives. pLP712, encoding Lac and Prt, was then transferred to one of these hosts, into which plasmids encoding adsorption inhibition, restriction modification, and abortive infection had already been introduced. This resulted in a phage-resistant strain which was successfully used as a single-strain starter for cheddar cheese manufacture under industrial conditions.